Tag Archives: Rockefeller Foundations

how data-driven government and the ‘Internet of Bodies’ are poised to transform smart sustainable cities into social impact prisons | Alison McDowell

Introduction (reposted in full):

Alison McDowell is a mother and an independent researcher based in Philadelphia, PA. She blogs at the intersection of race, finance, nature, and technology at wrenchinthegears.com.

Her activism began fighting to slow the privatisation of public education in her city. These efforts eventually led her to an examination of globalized poverty management, euphemistically known as social impact investing. This new form of capitalism – biocapitalism or stakeholder capitalism – aims to turn humans into data commodities.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which has been planned out by Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum, seeks to replace human labor with artificial intelligence and robotics, a problem has arisen as to how life can be made profitable for transnational global capital interests once the poor have no buying power and are drowning in debt. The solution?

Human capital bond markets, but first everyone must be tagged and trackable for “impact.” That’s where biometric Covid health passports come in. Alison welcomes curious engagement and fellow travelers. You can follow her on Twitter at @philly852.

Alison McDowell’s presentation embedded above was part of an online forum, Politics In And Out Of Europe, hosted by Rutgers University’s Center for European Studies on Monday October 26th 2020. There were two panels followed by an hour of discussion. Alison McDowell was the second presenter, and framing remarks and response was provided by Naomi Klein. A full transcript is provided in the addendum below.

Click here to read the transcript in its original form interspersed with slides from the full presentation with comments beneath as it was published by Alison Hawver McDowell on her official website Wrench in the Gears on October 27th 2020.

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To mark ten year’s blogging, reproduced below is the sixth of my re-uploads from the WoC archive. Originally posted on August 7th 2011, if you tolerate this… looked into the creeping rollout of biometrics in society, in particular in schools thoughout the United Kingdom, and the central role played by Serco.

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My eldest nephew is very excited at the moment. He has just turned eleven and is about to move to his new secondary school. Anyway, a few weeks ago, my sister showed me a letter she’d received via the assistant head at her son’s new school. It read:

“Dear Parent/Carer,

I am pleased to inform you that we will be installing biometric fingerprint readers at the – – – School as part of the catering system.”

“Pleased to inform you… as part of the catering system!”, I parroted back, as my sister read on from the briefing, my own voice rising with incredulity. “They’re fingerprinting the kids to help with the catering?!”

“Yes, but he’s not going to have his fingerprints taken”, she assured me, “they’re not going to treat him like a prisoner. It’s not compulsory…” And she then read on:

“This will enable students to get their dinners more quickly by speeding up the payments process. It will also mean that they can put cash into the system (via paying in machines, like a ticket machine) whenever it suits them so that they do not have to carry cash around with them all day…”

I interrupted again: “But you could do that with a card or something.”

“Yes, I know,” she said, “that’s the alternative option…” And then continuing from the letter:

“Swipe cards can be issued as an alternative to the finger scanning however these can obviously be lost, forgotten or stolen.”

“So what are the other parents thinking?” I asked her.

“There are a few of us refusing but mostly they think it’s just a good idea.”

“Do you know what company’s behind it?” I asked.

“No, but there are some notes on the back…” And she turned the letter over to show me, adding: “perhaps you can check it out”.

On the back of the letter, there is indeed “information” about the biometric system being installed. Information that explains why: “students, parents and staff can rest assured that the fingerprint images cannot be used by any other source for identification purposes”, because “the software turns your child’s fingerprint into a mathematical algorithm” and about how “the image of the fingerprint is then discarded”.

What the notes fail to mention, however, is that this kind of “processing” is standard procedure when recording any kind of digital biometrics. With “image capture” followed by “feature extraction” leading finally to “digital representation”, data compression is an inevitability, but that’s okay so long as in this processing the “vital information” isn’t lost. The important thing is that “the encoded information is functionally as unique as the original, and as easily processed, i.e., compared.”

How do I know this? In part because I’ve just read through Chapter 8 of the Defense Science Board Task Force report on biometrics (p35–6) published in September 2006. Not that a report from the US Department of Defense has anything to do with the installation of a catering system at a school in Sheffield, obviously…

So the fact that “the information stored cannot be used to recreate an image of the child’s fingerprint”, as the notes on the back of the letter explain, is actually beside the point. The actual point being that they can be used to identify the child, because the information is still “as functionally unique as the original”. To put all this another way, a photograph cannot be used to reconstruct a perfect 3-D likeness of your head. There is a loss of information. But that obviously doesn’t mean a photograph can’t be used to identify you. It can, and even when still more information is removed, by let’s say photocopying it a few times, a photo will still retain a sufficiently detailed likeness to identify you. Biometrics are just the next step down. The original photo can be deleted, just so long as sufficient details are retained of, for example, how wide your mouth is and how close together your eyes are. With enough of the right pieces of information, they can distinguish one person from another, reliably and consistently. Which is how biometrics works.

All of this biometric information, “the unique digital signatures” are then held in the database, as the notes on the letter from school also explain. Less clear is who actually owns this database. And skipping through the other details on the back of the letter, I can’t immediately find the name of the company involved, but it does give the brand name of their “cashless catering system”, which is IMPACT. So I looked up IMPACT:

“A million users in over 1700 schools throughout the UK.

We design, build and maintain industry leading, reliable and functional cashless payment systems under the brand name IMPACT…”

Here begins the sales pitch on the homepage of CRB Solutions. Never heard of them? Nor had I. Well, it turns out that they are a “Serco Learning Partner”, one of many. Indeed, Serco have more than 20 current “Learning Partners” offering “solutions” to “clients” (i.e., schools and colleges across the country), which means they have access to a lot of biometric and other kinds of data on school pupils and college students. For instance, listed directly above CRB Solutions, there is Aurora Computer Services, who are:

“The UK market leader in face recognition. faceREGISTER is designed for sixth form registration or whole school lateness. faceREGISTER enables students to register automatically in school, college or university.”

Gone are the days, apparently, when teachers simply remembered their student’s faces. Now whenever a student is late:

“they will be asked for a reason why they are late and these marks are fed back to Serco Facility via our administration software faceMANAGER.”

Those of a more curious disposition are perhaps wondering what other kinds of personal information is downloaded at the “Serco Facility”. In fact, what other kinds of information more generally, since Serco already offers its services in sectors as diverse as environmental services, health, science, transport, local government, welfare to work, defence and nuclear. Nuclear? Yes, nuclear:

“We support the operation of over 20 nuclear reactors, and serve as the lead nuclear safety advisor to Westinghouse, designer of the AP1000 nuclear reactor currently under assessment for the UK’s new civil nuclear programme.” 1

That and the management of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), which Serco says is the leading nuclear technology services provider in the UK, “with expertise across the full range of nuclear technology, including waste management, nuclear safety and non-proliferation, materials and corrosion and plant inspection.” So that’s pretty comprehensive. Aside from this, Serco also manages the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) as part of a consortium with Lockheed Martin and Jacobs. So the company behind the introduction of school biometrics systems across the country is also responsible for managing the UK atomic power and weapons programmes:

“Serco has a reputation for being a tad secretive. This is perhaps not surprising, as it manages the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire, where nuclear weapons are made, and runs the ballistic missile early warning system.

There are parts of AWE that even the head of the company, Kevin Beeston, can’t go into. Other secrets, too, are kept from him, such as where the company stores evidence on behalf of the National Crime Squad. “I don’t need to know or want to know,” he says.” 2

So begins an article entitled “Serco thunders down the tracks: Traffic lights, rail services, atomic weapons, the time of day. This secretive company manages them all” from the Independent on Sunday, published in March 2002. The article goes on:

“While many people haven’t heard of Serco, almost everyone in this country will have come across its services. It is Serco that runs the speed cameras on the M25, and maintains the traffic signals on a third of motorways in the UK. Half of London’s traffic lights are run by Serco, as are all the signals in Dublin. Manchester’s tram service, Metrolink, and London’s Docklands Light Railway (DLR) are both Serco-operated. When you ring National Rail Enquiries, you will speak to a Serco employee. The company has also built hospitals and prisons.

“In fact, Serco is so ubiquitous, it even sets the time. It manages the National Physical Laboratory, which owns the atomic clock that gives us Greenwich Mean Time.

“You’d be forgiven for thinking Serco was a government ministry.”

This article was published almost a decade ago and yet Serco‘s involvement in running public services was so large and far-flung that comparison is already being made to “a government ministry”. So just how did Serco manage to expand so rapidly and yet so inconspicuously? Well, here’s a brief overview of their rise and rise, taken from the same article:

“As well as having a novel corporate culture, Serco also has an intriguing history. It started out in 1929 as the UK maintenance division of RCA, at the time a cinema and radio equipment company. In the late Fifties it got its first taste of top-secret government contracts. The Ministry of Defence needed a radio equipment specialist to design, build and run the four-minute warning system for nuclear attacks. RCA got the job and has been maintaining it since.

“But it was in the early Eighties that the government-related business really started taking off. Beeston takes up the story: ‘Mrs Thatcher had come in power in 1979 and began reducing public sector costs on a tax-reduction agenda and carrying out privatisation. One of biggest areas that was first turned to contractualisation was the Ministry of Defence.’

“Happily for Serco, Thatcher’s successors, John Major and Tony Blair, both exhibited a fondness for getting the private sector involved in the public sector.”

Click here to read the full article by Heather Tomlinson.

Four years later and Serco were already being talked of as “probably the biggest company you’ve never heard of”, as a glowing profile of their CEO Christopher Hyman in the Guardian explained:

“Have you recently travelled on a train in northern England? Or on London’s Docklands Light Railway? Or perhaps been caught by a speed camera?

“If the answer to any of these questions was yes — or you have spent any time in custody or the armed forces — chances are you have dealt with the support services company Serco. With almost 48,000 people helping to service 600 largely public-sector contracts around the world, Serco is probably the biggest company you’ve never heard of.” 3

No longer a small British subsidiary of a little known American corporation, by 2006, when the article above was published, Serco had gone global. Here, for instance, is taste of what Serco are already running in Canada, Ireland, Dubai, and Australia these days:

Taken from ABC Australia’s Hungry Beast. [Link has since been removed]

Rebranded with Olympian titles, we are familiar with the names of most of our new gods: Blackwater and DynCorp, gods of war and reconstruction; Monsanto, god of harvests; Nokia, god of messages; Walmart, god of convenience; Aviva, god of life (insurance); but then, above and beyond all of these, there is Serco, the god of all the things the other gods don’t already do. A god without portfolio, and although not quite omnipresent, Serco is certainly “highly maneuverable”. As their own bragging PR likes to put it: “Serco has a finger in many pies”.

Now, having reached this point I realise that I have drifted well away from the original issue. My initial response to reading the letter from my nephew’s school having been to wonder at the kind of country we are living in. Already the most surveilled society in history, and now face-scanning and fingerprinting our children on a routine basis. In the process, as my sister says, we are already treating them as if they’re little criminals. Is it really necessary to hammer home the point here?

For we may believe this data can and will never be retrieved for uses beyond the bounds of the schools and colleges involved, but in permitting such licence we are nevertheless inculcating a sense of naïve trust in the next generation, which will normalise them to accept adult life in a surveillance society. We are teaching them to submit to authority. The word Orwellian is very overworked, but what other word can be applied in this instance? We are fingerprinting our children and entrusting that information to the major government defence contractor. And there is barely a raised eyebrow. Parents are mostly thinking that this is “helpful”. So please, if you haven’t done so already, read Nineteen Eighty-Four (not that Orwell has anything to say about fingerprint or face recognition systems, because back in the 1940s such hi-tech digital biometrics had yet to be imagined, let alone invented).

So what kind of a world awaits my nephew and his friends when he finally leaves school in five years time? Well, that will depend.

The road ahead is already laid. As our national assets and provision of our state sector were stolen away, Serco, and a few other giant corporations, absorbed the new workforce and took over. And now, as ours and other economies around the world begin to splutter and flail, they are about to suck up whatever remains at bargain prices. Finally, they will put up their toll-booths at every turn of our daily lives, and in the envisaged “cashless society”, these toll-booths will also be our checkpoints — logging every transaction and every movement.

History ought to have taught us to beware, its overriding message being that the rise of tyranny needs to be constantly guarded against. But those, like Thatcher and Reagan, who rushed us away from more direct forms of centralised government (supposedly to save us from a Soviet style tyranny) have delivered us instead into the talons of an unregulated and monopolised market. Any distinction between interests of the state and the corporations having thus been eroded, the takeover by multinationals such as Serco has been unstoppable. After all, someone has to be in charge of things. Serco then (and the pantheon of other corporate gods we must increasingly bow to) amounts to governance by another title, and not merely at a national scale, but transnationally — a few corporations becoming, in effect, arms of an unelected and largely unaccountable “global governance”.

This shift away from democracy and towards neo-feudalism is happening in plain sight. You even get the picture from Serco‘s own PR  material — the closing overlapping mosaic of corporate heads in their latest video simultaneously and hypnotically announcing: “we are Serco”; with the eerie subtext being that “resistance is futile”. But resistance isn’t futile, not yet…

If you’d like further information about this widening programme of school biometrics then I direct you to a worthwhile campaign group called Leave Them Kids Alone (LTKA) that is calling for a stop to this latest encroachment upon our civil liberties, or rather, the civil liberties of our children.

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Addendum: The full transcript of Alison McDowell’s presentation

We’re living in tumultuous times with polarizing political theater and pandemic providing ample cover for the roll out of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From the World Economic Forum’s outpost at San Francisco’s Presidio, the tentacles of dispossession triggered by Klaus Schwab’s “Great Reset” are rapidly encircling the globe.

We are witnessing the culmination of a century of machinations by western social engineers. We see predatory philanthropy using such euphemistic framing as “Living Cities,” “Healthy Cities,” “Resilient Cities,” and “Build Back Better” to package the profoundly anti-human and anti-life initiatives coming out of Davos as aspirational goals for “smart” living.

The oligarch class asks us to play along and overlook the fact that all of this smartness rests on a foundation of continued growth, fossil-fuel expansion, child labor, toxic waste, and space pollution. They demand we overlook the insatiable energy requirements needed to run the augmented reality Internet of Things illusion. That we put out of our minds the existence of vast data centers cooled 24/7 with the water of a thirsty, poisoned world.

They’ve outdone themselves propagandizing youth to cheer on transnational global capital’s plans to implement a final “green” solution. Though my hope is after months of digital alienation people’s spirits will stir in time to derail the intentions of this cruel biocapitalist regime to push us away from our rightful connection to natural systems and one another and into isolated virtual realms. The spell of faux ICT sustainability must be broken.

Predatory debt-finance got a spit and polish makeover, rebranded as circular economies and stakeholder capitalism to make it more palatable. Post-Covid, vast poverty mining enterprises will emerge from the ashes. Smart city sensor networks, predictive policing, and public-private partnerships will latch onto shell-shocked families trying to pick up the pieces.

And while Bitcoin-loving Agorists dream of liberation on Blockchain, central bankers have an entirely different vision in mind. They are conjuring a future of data flowing through digital wallets, fuel for an emergent social impact economy, one carefully plotted out for Third Sector, now Fourth Sector, implementation by Social Finance and Sir Ronald Cohen, Harvard Business School graduate and father of UK venture capital.

Bloomberg Philanthropies Digital Innovation Project and the Global Parliament of Mayors based out of The Hague will ensure gov-tech and open data platforms are ready to deliver all the data that is needed. Conveniently, a new “operating system for government” developed by Neil Kleiman of NYU’s GovLab and Stephen Goldsmith of Harvard Kennedy School’s Data-Smart City Solutions, will permit politicians to deftly shift accountability for devastating policies onto faceless cadres of analysts. Dashboards are effective weapons to sway populations conditioned for compliance. It’s difficult to effectively direct public sentiment against something as ephemeral as an algorithm.

The war on terror has been swapped out for pandemic preparedness, which should work out well for the World Bank’s efforts to grow their vaccine and pandemic bond markets. We all pose threats to state security simply by living in a human body. Robot police dogs, drones, facial recognition cameras, wearable sensors, and biometric tracking are framed vital investments needed to keep communities “safe” in what is rapidly becoming a global open air prison. Track and trace free-range humans; look to industrial farming; look to wildlife management; look to Gaza; look to The Commons Project.

CommonPass isn’t their only venture. Not by a long shot.

It’s not just air travel that the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Economic Forum intend to regulate. In their imagined future, presentation of tokenized credentials will be required to go to work, to school, to the store, to access public buildings and events. Such micro-management was unfathomable mere months ago, at least to everyone not in on the scheme.

When we speak of politics, when we speak of citizens’ rights this is THE game changer. Who voted in Common Pass? Who decided individual liberties will now be governed by apps advanced by corporations that stand to profit from population management?

How relevant will national borders be in an age of real-time geo-fencing? Pass laws have long been used to control targeted populations: on Indian reservations, in Nazi Germany, in Apartheid South Africa. Now we have Serco. Now we have legal discrimination based on health status? In the global biosecurity state on any given day the border could very well end up being your front door.

rutgers-10

If we don’t object, moving forward blockchain tokens representing all sorts of digital assets, including rights and privileges, will be held in digital accounts. Social entrepreneurs need these biometric identity systems in place in order to install their planned impact economy. Using health status as an issue of national security, our hijacked governments plan to impose this upon us, not for our own good, but because the biocapitalist agenda must proceed.

Few realize it, but the Covid drama is providing cover for a far more insidious program of perpetual tracking and tracing tied to health management and Sustainable Development Goal 3. Health data will create new equity markets meaning more and more wearable tech surveillance. The Impact Management Project’s practitioners, the asset holders whose greed led to a world beset by chronic illness, have structured profit centers in Internet of Things preventative care – social determinants of health weaponized.

What we are living through is not a public health emergency but a reset of the global economy managed from Davos on behalf of the finance, technology and defense sectors. This “new normal” is totalitarianism wrapped up in a shiny “green” bow.

The post-Covid world will be characterized by welfare dependency on a scale heretofore unimaginable, justifying the creation of innovative human capital debt products. Portfolios of people, poor people, will emerge as a new asset class enabled by pay for success government contracts.

Education, training, healthcare, counseling, nutrition, and housing services all aligned to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to generate the metrics needed to satisfy contractual obligations. The richness of life narrowed to fit the stingy confines of a data analyst’s worldview.

rutgers-12

This is a diagram featuring a digital wallet where food assistance funds are stored on blockchain with coded nudges guiding a recipient’s food purchase behaviors.

The State of Illinois Blockchain Task Force developed this thought experiment, but similar digital food payment programs are in use to manage the displaced. UK company IrisGuard’s is a major player in that space. Additional NHS has made arrangements to purchase DNA nudge bands tied to Covid Testing. Makes you wonder where the DNA from the testing is going, doesn’t it? Likely into academic tech-transfer hubs. Such is biocapitalism.

Stakeholder capitalists can’t profitably mine poverty without biometric identification that can be used to aggregate interoperable data. Vaccine registries are central to this program. GAVI is a key player with Gates sitting at the pinnacle of the Stakeholder Capitalist pyramid. ID2020 efforts running through the United Nations will ensure no one “gets left behind,” but few are aware the US Department of Homeland Security bankrolled much of the World Wide Web Consortium’s work in the digital identity space.

As I prepared these remarks I couldn’t help but mull over the intelligence communities’ interest in signals intelligence, weaponized narrative, simulation, predictive modeling, and social contagion. How will our collective voices ripple through this militarized cloud architecture into the general consciousness and beyond? Such are the thoughts that haunt the corners of a Zoom consciousness – Bluffdale and the NSA always out on the horizon, you know?

But those with eyes to see have the duty to speak.

So I am here today as a mother.

I am here as a mapper of geographies of power, as a voracious LinkedIn profile reader, and a viewer of obscure government webinars.

I am here as a resident of Philadelphia, a “smart” city set up for predatory “what works” “data-driven” government.

I am here to shine a light on municipal nudge units funded by self-interested foundations seeking to replace civil servants with apps that manage citizens as agents in behavioral economic equations.

I am here as a human relative living among a multitude of non-human beings on this beautiful earth, not yet remade as a planetary computer to profit social impact investors.

I am here as a lover of stars who opposes the weaponization of space, the atmosphere, and our weather systems.

I am here as a voice for peace who views 5G and the planned 6G installation as a domestic military occupation.

I am here to speak of Davos’s plans to deny us the opportunity to communally atone for and begin to remedy the devastation capitalism has wrought against nature and indigenous people.

I am here because we have entered a cyborg era in which sociopathic billionaires and defense contractors want to fundamentally alter what it means to be human, tapping nano-technology and morally bankrupt scientists to do their dirty work.

To the wealth hoarders, the masses exist as nodes in the Internet of Bodies, nodes that must be separated from the cosmic dance through force of law, hydro-gel biosensors, and blockchain.

Will you own your ledger or will your ledger own you? We are looking at a future where the masses will forfeit their innate human freedoms in exchange for the behavioral currency needed to survive within the panopticon.

Human capital bonded. Each life calculated according to its perceived burden on the coming robot society, at least in the eyes of hedge fund traders as they place their bets.

Don’t worry there’s safety on the “continuum of care” pathway. Just do as you’re told and keep your social credit score where it needs to be.

Every move in every country advances lockstep – a playbook aligned to strategic investments made over decades by philanthro-capitalists like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar, Steve Ballmer, and Marc Benioff.

Will human rights mean anything once financiers, faith community endowments, health insurers, pensions, and even sovereign wealth funds hold our futures in escrow?

Rockefeller Foundation-funded think tank change agents have cleared the way for life to be railroaded into virtual space – for our own good, the good of the planet, in service of the World Bank’s One Health initiative.

The oligarchs will use the UN Sustainable Development Goals to justify imprisoning the planet using sensor networks. Once the electrical engineers have nature and humanity firmly in their grasp, transnational global capital can channel its concentrated wealth through our bodies, our social relationships, and our non-human kin.

As we stand on this threshold questions must be asked.

Who intends to rule life on Earth?

To what end?

On whose authority?

John Trudell, visionary leader of the American Indian Movement, poet and prophet, expressed that it is our responsibility to use the intelligence gifted to us by the creator to be thinkers who will go up against the machine of tech-no-logic.

So today I am here to declare on behalf of the women of the world to say we do not consent to Davos’s Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In this battle of sacred and profane we stand ready to defend the children and the earth from further predation and to strive towards a future of reciprocity and abundance and spirit.

We stand firm in our power full of love and light, ready to face off against Klaus Schwab’s PharmaColonial Technocracy of Necromancers.

Click here to read the same article interspersed with slides from the full presentation and comments published on Alison Hawver McDowell’s official website Wrench in the Gears on October 27th 2020.

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1 http://www.serco.com/markets/nuclear/index.asp

2 From an article entitled “Serco thunders down the tracks: Traffic lights, rail services, atomic weapons, the time of day. This secretive company manages them all” by Heather Tomlinson published in the Independent on Sunday on Sunday 10th March 2002 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/serco-thunders-down-the-tracks-653444.html

3 From an article entitled “Happy, touchy-feely and driven by God: The Serco chief Christopher Hyman is unusual for his values of doing business, with staff and customers coming first and profit last” by Jane Martinson, published in the Guardian on Friday 24th February, 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2006/feb/24/columnists.guardiancolumnists

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the pandemic & the ‘state of exception’: either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists…

I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine… If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”.

— Max Blumenthal

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The quote above is taken from a very recent interview [premiered on Sat 20th] with independent journalist Max Blumenthal when he joined host RJ Eskow on his show The Zero Hour – the full show is embedded below along with annotated segments of the conversation that I have transcribed beneath including relevant links, video uploads (with descriptions in Italics) and occasional disagreements:

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“Since we’ve been having these conversations for a few years, you can see that I’ve been branded “an antisemite” for my work on Israel-Palestine, and trying to understand and interrogate how the Israel lobby influences US politics. I’ve been called “an Assadist” for my critical reporting on the dirty war on Syria, which was largely kept from the US public by legacy and corporate media. I’ve been called “a Kremlin shill” or “Russian spy” or “asset” for challenging the narrative of Russiagate, which has just been exploded in broad daylight in recent weeks with the indictment of several key players in the construction and dissemination of the Steele Dossier.

“And so now, for using the same kind of techniques and applying the kind of critical thinking that I do to every major issue – and having you know been inspied to get into journalism because of the way 9/11 was exploited to consolidate this massive security state and carry out regime change across the Middle East – for just applying that same kind of thinking to the pandemic, yes, I’m branded “an anti-vaxxer” and large segments of the organised left, or the establishment left, are angry with my analysis, and according to them, you’re not really supposed to have an analysis: we just are supposed to  go along with the proclamations of public health officials which are constantly shifting.

“Just through my conversations with colleagues and people on the left; they all know something’s wrong, but many of them self-censor because they’re afraid of having this label applied to them which does have implications; disturbing implications when you consider that in September, around the anniversary of 9/11, the DHS issued a terror threat warning that there was no specific terror plot, but that people who are critical of vaccine policy in the US were “a terror threat”. In other words, the concept of being “an anti-vaxxer” – which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means anyone who even opposes mandates – is now being criminalised.” [from 3:05 mins]

Drawing upon Cold War comparisons, RJ Eskow broadens the conversation raising the point that the West has once again entered a period of Manichean ‘bi-polar’ thinking, to which Blumenthal responds:

“These terms are never fully explained. It’s just a way of, first of all, appealing to establishment prejudice against the dissenter, and applying a pejorative or label in order to shut down debate.

“And you’ll find that on this, even more than Russiagate, it is impossible to have a rational or reasoned kind of calm and measured debate on the issues, with particularly people who are to the left of Tucker Carlson. I mean it goes through the Democratic Party, all the way to the radical left. You have the almost, near blanket support, or silence in the face of so many violations of human rights, and obliteration of legal strictures, and concepts that we took for granted in an already weak liberal democratic system; that’s probably an understatement.

“The purpose of 9/11 – not the attack but the response to it – was to create a state of exception where international law and conventions around torture could be wiped away, because the public provided consent to the Bush administration and the Blair administration to do so because it was gripped with fear.

“You remember the days after 9/11: I remember people were concerned that Bin Laden was going to wage a dirty bomb attack; there was the anthrax – the very mysterious anthrax attacks – to keep the fear going. And the public gave full consent for the Bush administration to create what Carl Schmitt called the ‘state of exception’ where the laws of the past no longer apply, and you had to, in the words of Dick Cheney, ‘take the gloves off’; begin torturing people; establish the unitary executive, where congressional approval of wars was no longer of interest; the AUMF [2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force] “Emergency Authorisation” – we hear that word so much around the Vaccines, well it reminds me of the AUMF, which has never been sunsetted since 9/11.

“So now we have another ‘emergency situation’: the threat of the virus, which is real, has absolutely been exaggerated, and we’ve moved from ‘responsibility to protect’ – the R2P Doctrine where the US has to come in and save some civilian population after we’ve witnessed so much death – to witnessing death all around us, and the government has to simply do something, and the public has give their consent for the government to do something. It’s gone from R2P to R2V: Responsibility to vaccinate – and that means mandating vaccines – something that Anthony Fauci said the government would never do. Something Joe Biden and Jen Psaki said [here  and here] they would never do, because it seemed usually draconian to voters back in 2002. Now they’re doing it, Democrats have overwhelmingly supported it – even a slice of Republicans have – and we’re seeing restrictions and human rights violations take place that we never could have imagined.

“I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine. I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” if I’d said another country Slovenia is now refusing to allow the unvaccinated to buy gasoline – you have to present your health card there in order to buy gasoline.

BBC news finally reported on the full extent of protests across Europe including Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands last Sunday evening [Nov 21st]:

On Thursday [Nov 18th] British comedian Russell Brand uploaded his own report on developments in Australia where thousands of protestors are also gathering to demonstrate against legislation granting new government powers:

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“Germany will soon apply a lockdown of the unvaccinated, and lockdowns themselves, and the way we’ve seen them applied, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where if there’s one or two cases an entire region or country locks down; and all the health effects that that has on the public are completely ignored in order to eradicate an airborne respiratory virus that’s simply impossible to eradicate and is endemic.

“If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”. So there’s almost no way to win, but I think a large part of the public is starting to come to its senses and realising that the response to the pandemic is not necessarily about public health.

“It’s about private wealth, monetising the response, and militarising the response. The military-intelligence apparatus has been involved in this from the beginning… in a different way than it was involved in 9/11, and in some ways a more intimate way: in the way that censorship and surveillance are creeping into our lives on the grounds of a public health response.” [from 7:50 mins]

Responding to this last point, RJ Eskow says that he also recognises how governments can and do usefully regulate for public safety and worker protection and that as someone who suffers with health problems that have left his own immune system suppressed, he too desires freedom of movement. He feels that it is therefore understandable that a responsible government would encourage citizens to get a vaccine, adding however, that “a little alarm goes off” once he sees the state exercising its powers to impose enforced inoculation.

Eskow then references an article co-authored by Max Blumenthal and published by The Grayzone [Oct 19th] about the vaccine passport and who’s behind it, continuing:

“This to me is vitally interesting and you know I did a project for a think tank in Palo Alto fifteen years ago where I modelled future possible pandemics – and I found out, and very few people have written about it – back then that the federal government had already put plans in place to impose internal passports and internal restrictions on travel, military takeover of transportation hubs and things like that, and you know I thought ‘wow, that sounds dystopian’.

That’s a lot of what you’re describing and it and it seems to me we should be able to hold more than one thought in our head, which is that we want to reduce loss of life from this pandemic, but we also want to be concerned about not strengthening the mix of state and private forces that already have too much control over our lives. Do you get where I’m coming from?” [from 15:10 mins]

Blumenthal answers:

“Yes I do. I think that if there had never been mandates in the US where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of workers had a pink slip dangled in front of their face, if they did not want to take a vaccine – and we should talk about what they’re being asked to take – then there wouldn’t be this hysteria about “anti-vaxxers”.

“I mean you have people around the world – not just masses of people in Italy, in France, protesting vaccine passports: what’s called ‘the Green Pass’ in Italy where millions of workers are being told that they have to present this in order to get into their very jobs.

On Saturday [Nov 20th] thousands of protesters attended a demonstration to oppose the Green Pass in Rome. The certificate is mandatory in order to work and attend all public places and events, including public transport between cities. The protesters gathered in Rome’s Circus Maximus, after Italian authorities banned demonstrations against the Green Pass in historic or tourist sites. One protester says, “Between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Are we all equal? We are equal human beings. We are equal.” Another tells the reporter, “Everyone makes their choice. I am not against the vaccine, I am here for freedom of choice”:

On the same day thousands also took to the streets in the Croatian capital Zagreb in the biggest demonstration the country has seen against Covid-19 measures since the beginning of the pandemic:

*

“You have protests in the West Bank in Palestine. You have protests in Tehran. You have protests in Martinique. You have protests in Morocco – massive protests against their vaccine passport system. Now you have protests in Costa Rica and Colombia; all across the Global South protests are cropping up, as well as in New York City: there’s a massive protest this Saturday in Central Park, and all across the West.

“You wouldn’t have this if there hadn’t been mandates. If people hadn’t been forced and coerced: if they had simply been encouraged. And many people who were immuno-suppressed or who were in risk groups have mostly gone out and gotten the vaccine.

“And then we have another problem and it’s the intersection of these two problems that caused me to start raising issues about the pandemic response. First, the coercion and the attacks on workers, obliterating worker rights as [economist] Richard Wolff said: one of the core foundations of the labour struggle is that the boss should never have the power to decide what life decisions the workers make. It’s up to the workers. That’s why workers organise, and so that’s why they’re opposing these mandates.

“But the other issue is the vaccine itself. They were rolled out under emergency usage. The trials were shoddy at best.* They were approved then by the FDA under very suspect conditions – in one case, the Pfizer vaccine had the control group eliminated. I mean these aren’t real trials, so people are naturally suspicious of it. It is using a novel technology called mRNA, which is essentially a gene therapy…

[Warning: Before continuing I need to insert a few words of caution: a lot here hangs on the Max Blumenthal’s use of the word ‘essentially’. More assertive claims that the vaccines are gene therapy are widely discredited. Of course, this point is highly technical and well beyond my own scientific training, but here is an article that attempts to clear up the matter.

Regarding the claim that “the trials were shoddy at best”, this is a strong statement and I have found little evidence to directly support it. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Pfizer vaccine alone has yet to receive full FDA approval (restricted to people aged 16 and above and granted as recently as August) while the alternative vaccines remain under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) which means that clinical trials are ongoing. Moreover, The Lancet has acknowledged that “long-term safety issues might arise” due to the accelerated development under the Operation Warp Speed – see the footnote for further details.]

 “… and while it has been shown to reduce severe illness or death when people have antibodies, it does not prevent infection. And that’s something that everyone from Anthony Fauci to CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, admitted; there’s a new study in The Lancet out this week: it’s called “Community transmission and viral-load kinetics of the SARS-Cov-2 delta variant in vaccinated and unvaccinated Individuals in the UK” [click here] and it clearly shows that the vaccines do not prevent viral transmission.

“So what does this mean? It means that the mandates are essentially unscientific. Because if the vaccines had prevented infection and transmission, then it would mean you are protecting others around you by taking it. And it would mean that there was a logic behind requiring people to take it to go into a workplace, or a logic behind vaccine passports requiring people to take it in order to mingle with others at a bar. But there is no logic there. So what is the point of the mandates and the passports? It feels like simply control. And people feel abused by this.

One of the inventors of mRNA vaccine technologies, Robert Malone, warned of the risks of the accelerated vaccine rollout and has subsequently been accused of misinforming the public on a few specific technical points. As a non-specialist it is difficult to gauge whether or not his expertise is fully reliable or we should just trust in government agencies and the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. In this interview he talks at length about many related topics, but I have cued the video to begin where he discusses the covid vaccine response:

*

“Now the people who are ratioing Richard Wolff; that’s you know the laptop-left. They don’t have a whole lot of connection with workers. But if you go out and talk to workers, including those who have willingly taken the jab under threat of losing their job, they feel like there’s been no informed consent – that’s been violated. Their bodily autonomy has been violated. And their right as a worker has been violated.

“And all to take a vaccine that doesn’t prevent them from giving the virus to others. That’s why in Ireland right now, which has over 90% vaccination uptake, you’re seeing cases rise massively …

“The same thing is happening in Singapore which ended its long lockdown and is now being swamped with cases. They have about 85% of people over [the age of] twelve vaccinated. The most vaccinated place on earth, Gibraltar – close to 100% – is going to cancel Christmas; has announced plans to cancel public celebrations of Christmas because of the massive rise in cases.  [from 16:10 mins]

John Campbell [Nov 24th] confirms the recent surge in cases in Gibraltar but also finds dramatically lowered rates of death that supports the case that vaccines do provide protection against serious disease:

RJ Eskow then picks up on the points Max Blumenthal raised and summarises, pointing out that there are actually ‘two logics’ operating: one aims to reduce transmission, while the other and sounder reason aims to reduce cases of severe illness, hospitalisation and death. Following on, he says, this means there are correspondingly two moral arguments to consider: first, that it is your duty to your fellow citizens to be vaccinated so that you don’t infect them; and, separately, that you take the jab for your own personal good:

“We don’t want you to be hospitalised or die or get long covid, which is terrible. So we will mandate you take this vaccine so that doesn’t happen. Now, I would argue that the left has not sufficiently analysed the fact that there are two principles here… So when it becomes an issue of ‘for your own good I want to mandate that you take this’, if that is the only principle, then we need to have a debate about whether that is a valid reason for mandating.” […]

“Now, if the goal is to help other people, it’s interesting to ponder whether the mandate has in fact backfired because more people are resisting because of the mandate than would have taken the shot if it had been presented to them in a clear way why they should take it. So that’s my map of the moral landscape. Do you agree with it, disagree with it?” [from 22:40 mins]

Max Blumenthal replies:

“Well, the federal court has ruled that Biden’s mandate as applied to companies of one hundred workers or more that would be enforced by OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] is extraordinarily overbroad – in their words – and a point that the judges makes, which I think is salient, is that not all workers are the same.

“If you have a long-haul trucker who’s in the truck all day by his or herself, it’s very different from someone who’s working in a crowded office or a workplace where people are indoors together for long periods.

“Beyond that they raised the issue of natural immunity, which I think is another blow to the Achilles’ heel of the mandates and this biomedical security regime that’s being erected before our eyes.

“As we know from an August 2021 study by Tel Aviv University – the largest of its kind – comparing those who are vaccinated but have not been previously infected versus those who had been previously infected and not vaccinated, they found that immunity is something like twenty times stronger in those who had been previously infected, and much more durable.

As this report explains, the true figure is closer to thirteen times, but still significantly higher:

*

“We’re seeing that bear our right before our eyes. I mean just look at the number of cases. Now who is most likely to have been previously infected? It’s the frontline workers. It’s the people who were out there while the laptop class was at home during the lockdowns that they seemed to enjoy. Those are the people who now face the mandates.

“I mean the mandates are coming down on the backs of frontline workers who were celebrated with pots and pans being banged out windows, and they’ve gone from heroes to zeroes. That’s who you’re seeing at the protests in New York City is EMS [emergency medical services] workers, firefighters, restaurant workers, healthcare workers; people who sacrificed throughout 2020 and are now facing the pink slip.

*

“So natural immunity has to be recognised here and it’s a hard thing to demonstrate. So that’s another major issue.

“And then we have the issue of boosters. In lockstep, leaders across the West began making the case for boosters including Anthony Fauci, who said in an interview that the mRNA vaccines wane in efficacy over the course of six months. […]

“If you were vaccinated more than six months ago then you are considered unvaccinated in Israel. And not only that, you are not able to go to restaurants or the gym or a spa with your Green Pass anymore, even if you did your part and got vaccinated, because they’re already on their third jab and they’re making space for the fourth one.

Bloomberg has a piece out – you know citing various public health officials and supposed experts – on how no-one knows how many booster shots you will have to take. And so when you combine this fact with the mandates, and the vaccine passports, which are coming in in more and more draconian fashion around the world, you have to consider that for the rest of your life, every six months you will have to take a vaccine – [one] that in my view is still experimental because it usually takes around four to seven years to adequately test a vaccine and run it through trials and this one has just been rushed out. You will have to do that for the rest of your life in order to continue participating in society, or working.

“So that to me is unacceptable, and I think to many more people it’s unacceptable. And I wonder if boosters haven’t been rolled out so aggressively here and mandated is just to avoid the social catastrophe that’s inevitable if they are.” [from 24:25 mins]

Lastly, RJ Eskow brought the conversation around to concerns surrounding the organisations behind the vaccine passports. Max Blumenthal has already ready written extensively on this subject in the article already linked above and entitled “Public health or private wealth? How digital vaccine passports pave the way for unprecedented surveillance capitalism” that was published on October 19th by The Grayzone.

Back in October, Max Blumenthal carefully detailed a variety of initiatives spearheaded by such groups as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [BMGF], Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization [GAVI] which is 25% funded by Gates, Microsoft, Accenture, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Omidyar Network, along with Australian Aid and UK Aid, concluding his piece with a statement made by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who is best known for his work investigating Carl Schmitt’s concept of the state of exception:

Two days before anti-Green Pass protests exploded across Italy, the renowned philosopher Giorgio Agamben appeared before the Italian Senate’s Constitutional Affairs Commission to issue a dramatic statement of opposition to the Green Pass.

Agamben is most famous for his concept of Homo Sacer, or bare life, in which an individual is stripped of rights and reduced to their biological essence in an extra-legal regime justified by war or other emergencies. When Italian authorities declared the first lockdown in March 2020, the philosopher applied the theory to his own country’s heavy-handed restrictions.

“The defining feature…of this great transformation that they are attempting to impose is that the mechanism which renders it formally possible is not a new body of laws, but a state of exception – in other words, not an affirmation of, but the suspension of constitutional guarantees,” the philosopher explained in the foreword to his collection of 2020 writings on Covid-19, “Where Are We Now: The Epidemic As Politics,”

In his remarks before the Italian Senate, Agamben pointed to a sinister agenda behind the official rationale for vaccine passports: “It has been said by scientists and doctors that the Green Pass has no medical significance in itself but serves to force people to get vaccinated. Instead, I think we must say the opposite: that the vaccine is a means of forcing people to have the Green Pass. That is, a device that allows individuals to be monitored and tracked, an unprecedented measure.”

The philosopher concluded his address by taking aim at the supra-national forces – Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, and Rockefeller Foundation, among others – determined to impose a system of digital identification and high-tech social credit as much of the human population as possible.

“I believe that in this perspective,” Agamben warned, “it is more urgent than ever for parliamentarians to consider the political transformation underway, which in the long run is destined to empty parliament of its powers, reducing it to simply approving – in the name of bio-security – decrees emanating from organizations and people who have very little to do with parliament.”

*

To close their discussion, Max Blumenthal once again summarised his findings including the underreported consequences of the rollout of a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar that led to a spate of deaths in rural India in 2017 as a direct result of starvation due to denial of access to basic food rations – systems of a kind that tech billionaires including Bill Gates are keen to install across the globe (and I direct readers again to read his article in full). In brief he reminded us that:

“Vaccine passports are now in the US essentially handwritten CDC cards, and I assume that they will eventually be digitised. And in fact, there is a long-standing agenda to produce a digital ID and link it to a central bank digital currency, which will be administered through your digital wallet, and it will also be connected to now, as we see, your biomedical history.

“So your ID is connected to your finance, your medical history, and it’s all required to participate in society under the current biomedical security regime, which has come into play through a state of legal exception.” [from 29:40 mins]

Finally, they talk about how society is being fractured over these issues. Max Blumenthal delineates as follows:

“The group that is not just resisting the vaccine, but resisting what I call ‘the new normal’, which is this entire biomedical security regime and propaganda apparatus that’s grown up against the backdrop of 9/11 and Russiagate in this ‘state of exception’ through the pandemic is more heterogeneous than the group that angrily and aggressively supports ‘the new normal’. That group is mostly uniform.

“And then you have another group that has decided ‘to go along to get along’, because generally they’re in an economically precarious situation and they can’t afford conflict. Or they just simply aren’t heavily politicised and don’t want to get involved in the ugliness and toxicity – especially in the US where everything has been framed through the lens of fears of populism and nationalism and you know in the course of a culture war.

“So that group that’s more heterogeneous is impossible to stereotype and you do have right-wingers in there who are there because they just see anything the government does is evil. You have a number of left-wingers who are concerned about monopoly capital gaining unprecedented control over everything including people’s biology. They don’t trust the government. Strangely, I thought there would be more. I’m kind of baffled by the reflexive obedience of large sectors of the left here.

“But it isn’t anymore just about unvaccinated versus vaccinated. I know many people who are fully vaccinated who now see the booster regimen coming in and see these bizarre and exotic restrictions like lockdowns exclusively for the unvaccinated, and they’re just disgusted on civil liberties grounds.

“Of course, the entire resistance to this programme is legitimate, but the idea that every single person in the entire world needs to take one of these vaccines – that has failed on so many of their promises – is to me unacceptable. And to many other people.

“It’s going to require so much coercion and we haven’t even talked about adverse effects. They do have adverse effects. And if you believe the CDC’s VAER’s system – the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system – it’s harming people and injuring people every week. And that’s a concern people have. It’s a legitimate concern.

“I went to a press conference of American’s from all walks of life, many of them had testified in the Senate earlier that day – this was two weeks ago – and hearing their stories about being injured by the vaccines was shocking. Most people are not going to be injured by them – this appears to be uncommon – but it’s a concern that we have to recognise.

“But on a population level, the idea that we can vaccinate our way out of the pandemic has, in my view, been totally discredited. And that’s why we’re going to see in 2022, a focus on therapeutics, on pills people can take. The public health officials will finally accept early treatment after demonising Ivermectin – like your Youtube video could be taken down because I just said the word Ivermectin – it’s been called “horse paste”.

“And now we’re seeing what amounts to Pfizer-mectin and all these other pills – 2022 will be the year of therapeutics. So it’s a tacit admission that the vaccines failed to end the pandemic.

“So why keep pushing people into a corner and creating this kind of new, very heterogeneous resistance? When the vaccine uptake, in my view, has been pretty high across the board, and will continue to go up if people are simply encouraged through positive means, and if public health officials now finally accept the reality that it’s an individual’s choice to protect yourself against illness or death in some cases.

“And I want to make another point that I think is controversial, but I’ve made it before and it’s true [read my note below], which is that the death toll is being inflated – and that doesn’t mean covid is not a threat – but it’s being inflated and accounted in unusual ways to make us think that we’re living through some kind of genocide and to cut off our critical faculties. [from 39:00 mins]

Unfortunately, this is where my own views radically depart from Max Blumenthal’s. In the UK, where I have studied the excess death figures very carefully I have found zero evidence supporting this contention and have in fact presented contrary evidence that shows the British government did everything within its power to reduce the apparent death toll during the early months – for reasons that are blindingly obvious.

Although the system of accounting in many countries, including Britain, undoubtedly is misleading, since it does falsely include some number who have died from other causes, it also inevitably misses other cases that were not diagnosed and thus where cause of death was wrongly attributed for a counterbalancing reason. The only figures that I believe are wholly reliable are these two: the number of hospitalisations and of excess deaths. Considering the case for Britain again, excess deaths counted over the full period beginning from March 2020 approximately correlates with official covid deaths (within a margin of around 10%). Given the difference in methods a small discrepancy is to be expected.

For these and other reasons, I remain entirely suspicious of claims of this sort. Indeed, I view this whole argument about false accounting as a canard and an unnecessary distraction, although as a firm advocate of free speech I do accept that others like Max Blumenthal have the right to make contrary assertions even while I believe it weakens their otherwise sound case. I include this digression at the risk of interrupting the flow merely to stress that I do not agree with Max Blumenthal on all points.

However, Max Blumenthal does finish on a point that I’m in full agreement with:

“We’ve gone from the left advocating for ‘Medicare for All’, and calling for public healthcare, to at least quietly acquiescing as public health officials and pundits call for denying healthcare to the unvaccinated. We’ve even seen a Colorado hospital deny an organ transplant to a woman simply because she and her donor were unvaccinated. She had to go to Texas to save her own life. And that’s something that we are now accepting as triage.

“There’s so many lives that could be saved here by not cutting ICU beds – Andrew Cuomo, how many ICU beds did that guy cut throughout his tenure as governor? Thousands and thousands and thousands…

“And now we’re looking at the symptoms instead of the cause. The symptoms: there’s not enough beds and the unvaccinated are filling everything up. No, this is about neoliberalism; there should just be more beds.

“And then finally, so many people, because of the lockdowns and the fear, delayed routine treatments and many of them died because of that – I mean including chemotherapy. And now they’re coming in and they’re flooding hospitals – look at the reporting right now – the hospitals are full of people who have now decided that they can’t wait any longer to have their routine procedures done, but they waited because of the pandemic.

“So all the hospitals are flooding with people and they’re going to be even more full because of the flu this winter. So covid isn’t the only issue here. It’s the response to it that has been absolutely inhuman, and there needs to be some debate about it – and the critics who have criticised and critiqued every other response by the powerful; every other undemocratic overreaction to a crisis – many of them are absent.” [from 46:35 mins]

Please note: Although the transcript is mine, the views expressed above are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

*

* From a report by The Lancet Commission on COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics Task Force published in The Lancet (Vol 9, Issue 7, E1017–E1021), released March 26, 2021 entitled “Operation Warp Speed: implications for global vaccine security”:

OWS has accelerated the development of COVID-19 vaccine without compromising efficacy, safety, or quality.1 There are, however, long-term safety issues that might arise. For example, three Ad5-vectored vaccine trials for HIV showed excess HIV infections in vaccine recipients; could Ad5-based vaccines for COVID-19 enhance HIV infections? Similarly, the use of the AS03 adjuvant was thought by some to be associated with the development of narcolepsy.20 Rare events, such as intussusception after the use of oral rotavirus vaccines, might not be apparent, even in trials of 30 000–60 000 people.21 Vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease and antibody-dependent enhancement were reported in animals given vaccines against SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV;22 fortunately, these effects have not been reported in small animal, non-human primate, or human studies of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.23 However, a long-term effect, similar to the enhancement that was observed for the Sanofi dengue virus vaccine, cannot be ruled out.24 Disregarding safety can undermine public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and decrease vaccination uptake.25 Strengthening of systems in LMICs to monitor, record, and report adverse events after immunisation will be important given the multiple vaccines in use.26

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00140-6/fulltext

Interpretation of the study (quoted directly from the paper):

Vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance. Nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts. Host–virus interactions early in infection may shape the entire viral trajectory.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Austria, India, Ireland, Italy, police state, September 11th, USA

how Wall Street is about to monetise nature, or why Glasgow COP26 was a roaring success for the one percent – Whitney Webb pulls back the curtain on GFANZ

[T]he United Nations has been transformed since we last met here in Davos. The Organization has undergone a complete overhaul that I have described as a ‘quiet revolution.” . . . A fundamental shift has occurred. The United Nations once dealt only with governments. By now we know that peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community and civil society. . . . The business of the United Nations involves the businesses of the world.”

— UN Secretary General Kofi Annan speaking to the World Economic Forum in 1998

*

Anyone who has read John Perkins bestselling mea culpa “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” is already familiar with the modus operandi of global vulture capitalism. Employed by an engineering consultancy firm, Perkins tells us that his actual job was to persuade the leaders of poor countries to take on enormous loans for prestigious development projects from global financial institutions including the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MBAs).

Once saddled with debts – and the word ‘saddled’ aptly characterises what it means to be heavily indebted – the countries would then be compelled to acquiesce to US pressure on a whole host of issues including, centrally, the adoption of neoliberal policies which require the privatisation of state assets and a vast transfer of wealth to enrich a handful of Western financial elites.

As Perkins tells us right at the top of the preface to his book:

Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

I should know; I was an EHM.

Of course, what Perkins describes is old school neo-imperialism. This was how late-twentieth century imperialists captured foreign nations and controlled them without too much need of direct military intervention or “boots on the ground” because mechanisms of financialisation are sufficient means for the usurpation of governments and exploitation of resources. However, as the world moves forward and new opportunities for exploitation recede, methods of plunder and ways of disguising it are swiftly being upgraded. These days when everything is going ‘green’, neo-imperialism is no exception:

Today, MDBs are used as “instruments of power” that utilize debt to force developing nations to implement policies that benefit foreign interests rather than their own national interests. If GFANZ gets its way [see below], the MDBs of tomorrow will be used to essentially eliminate national sovereignty, privatize the “natural assets” (e.g., ecosystems, ecological processes) of the developing world, and force increasingly technocratic policies designed by global governance institutions and think tanks on ever more disenfranchised populations.

The warning above is taken from a recent article by independent journalist Whitney Webb entitled “UN-Backed Banker Alliance Announces ‘Green’ Plan to Transform the Global Financial System”.

GFANZ, short for the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, as Webb explains, is an “industry-led and UN-convened” initiative. It was launched last April by John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; Janet Yellen, US Secretary of the Treasury; Mark Carney, former chair of the Bank of England and now UN Special Envoy for Climate Action; who co-chairs the GFANZ alliance with US billionaire and former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.

According to their blurb (follow the link above):

GFANZ will work to mobilise the trillions of dollars necessary to build a global zero emissions economy and deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement. GFANZ will provide a forum for strategic coordination among the leadership of finance institutions from across the finance sector to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy.

Whitney Webb then follows the money:

GFANZ is composed of several “subsector alliances,” including the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative (NZAM), the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA), and the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA). Together, they command a formidable part of global private banking and finance interests, with the NZBA alone currently representing 43 percent of all global banking assets. However, the “largest financial players” who dominate GFANZ include the CEOs of BlackRock, Citi, Bank of America, Banco Santander, and HSBC, as well as David Schwimmer, CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group and Nili Gilbert, chair of the Investment Committee of the David Rockefeller Fund.

Notably, another Rockefeller-connected entity, the Rockefeller Foundation, recently played a pivotal role in the creation of Natural Asset Corporations (NACs) in September. These NACs seek to create a new asset class that would put the natural world, as well as the ecological processes that underpin all life, up for sale under the guise of “protecting” them.

Continuing:

Details of GFANZ’s plan to deploy trillions of member investments into emerging markets and developing countries was published in the alliance’s inaugural “Progress Report,” the release of which was timed to coincide with the COP26 conference. The report details the alliance’s “near-term work plan and ambitions,” which the alliance succinctly summarizes as a “program of work to transform the financial system.” […]

In addition to the creation of “corporatist” “country platforms” that focus on specific areas and/or issues in the developing world, GFANZ aims to also further “corporatize” multilateral development banks (MDBs) and development finance institutions (DFIs) in order to better fulfill the investment goals of alliance members. Per the alliance, this is described as increasing “MDB-private sector collaboration.” The GFANZ report notes that “MDBs play a critical role in helping to grow investment flows” in the developing world. MDBs, like the World Bank, have long been criticized for accomplishing this task by trapping developing nations in debt and then using that debt to force those nations to deregulate markets (specifically financial markets), privatize state assets and implement unpopular austerity policies. The GFANZ report makes it clear that the alliance now seeks to use these same, controversial tactics of MDBs by forcing even greater deregulation on developing countries to facilitate “green” investments from alliance members.

The quote by Kofi Annan is also taken from Whitney Webb’s excellent article (which I firmly encourage you to read in full). It represents the final piece that completes the picture of the new neo-imperialist jigsaw. As she writes:

With the UN now essentially a vehicle for the promotion of stakeholder capitalism, it is only fitting that it would “convene” and support the efforts of a group like GFANZ to extend that stakeholder capitalist model to other institutions involved in global governance, specifically global financial governance. Allowing GFANZ members, that is, many of the largest private banks and financial institutions in the world, to fuse with MDBs, remake the “global financial governance system,” and gain increased control over political decisions in the emerging world is a banker’s dream come true. To get this far, all they have needed to do was to convince enough of the world’s population that such shifts are necessary due to the perceived urgency of climate change and the need to rapidly decarbonize the economy. Yet, if put into practice, what will result is hardly a “greener” world but a world dominated by a small financial and technocratic elite who are free to profit and pillage from both “natural capital” and “human capital.”

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article published on her official Unlimited Hangout website on November 5th.

On November 19th, Whitney Webb was interviewed by RJ Eskow on his show The Zero Hour where they discussed the issues raised in the article:

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Extracts from the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address, entitled “Markets for a Better World”, delivered on January 31, 1998 at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland. https://www.un.org/press/en/1998/19980130.SGSM6448.html

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Covid-19 vs. freedom and democracy: let us not sacrifice one to defeat the other

A primer: ‘The clairvoyant ruling class’

“The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.”

— John Steppling, Author, Playwright

“This report is crucial reading for anyone interested in creatively considering the multiple, divergent ways in which our world could evolve.”

— Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation

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Scenario planning for corporate strategy was pioneered by Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s. [Further reading on scenario planning: The Art of the Long View] The following excerpts are highlights from the May 2010 “Scenarios for the Future of Technology & International Development” report produced by The Rockefeller Foundation & Global Business Network.

Please note: The excerpts below are from the “Lock Step” scenario, but excerpts from all four scenarios are available in the original article published by Wrong Kind of Green.

“In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.” […]

“The pandemic blanketed the planet — though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols. But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge. The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders. However, a few countries did fare better — China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter postpandemic recovery. [p 18]

“China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure.  During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.” […]

“At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability. Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly, economic growth.” [p 19]

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Clairvoyant Ruling Class” published by Wrong Kind of Green.

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Fighting the invisible enemy today

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Benjamin Franklin 1

In the fight against Covid-19, the government of South Korea has arguably shown a way for other democracies to follow. First and foremost it established a comprehensive system of testing to confirm positive cases. This was backed up by contact tracing, targeted isolation and quarantine. Imposing sensible restrictions on travel also helped to slow and limit the spread of the outbreak. By acting promptly and enacting the precise measures called for by the scientists at the World Health Organisation, the Koreans managed to swiftly and effectively control the spread of Covid-19 infection and thereby averted a developing crisis.

One criticism of the South Korean approach surrounds its intrusive use of mobile phone technology to track movement and contacts. Though understandable perhaps (given cultural differences), such an infringement of privacy was non-essential, and there is really no need or justification whatsoever for western democracies to follow a similar course. That GCHQ in Britain and the NSA in America are already able to access and record private digital information including personal communications, metadata and location is actually an open secret. Of course, the opportunity now presents itself for such covert practices to be rolled out very publicly and given full legal sanction; moves that ought to be opposed. In other regards, however, the Korean model is surely exemplary.

The graph below is a snapshot of an interactive chart that you can access here.

Snapshot taken on March 28th

In stark contrast to Korean efficiency that halted the spread of infection, government responses across the western world have been comparatively slow to act, muddled, and in some respects negligent. The unfolding situation in Italy tragically illustrates a clear lack of preparedness on the part of the authorities there, where in spite of several weeks advantage over the Koreans, an initially lax approach allowed community-spread of the infection. It was not until a full-blown public health crisis emerged that increasingly draconian and sometimes overnight emergency measures were put in place.

On this Sky News report from March 11th, which was recorded prior to the full lockdown, many Italians were already asking why so little, so late:

Virtually all other European countries have failed to learn the lessons from Italy.

A fortnight later on March 27th, Sky News reported from Spain, where once again action to prevent and slow the spread of the virus came too late:

In France and Britain, where the clampdown has been more gradual and less severe up to now, the implementation of restrictions has been similarly confused and inexplicably overdue. Who knows how many more people became infected in the days and weeks leading up to the eventual (and inevitable) closure of sporting events, entertainment venues, gyms and pubs, let alone during the time lost as schools, offices and building sites continued to operate; the government’s preference for business as usual.

On the other hand, the overreach shown by North Derbyshire police who decided to fly their drones over The Peak District last week in order to shame anyone out walking the dog or just taking a quiet stroll was not just unwarranted, but entirely counterproductive. In a time of national crisis, you have to ask why our news media chose to broadcast this footage and reinforce such a stark police state message:

The situation facing America is set to be worse, with its lack of social safety nets and a system of healthcare provision that makes it a privilege millions simply cannot afford. Compounding these problems, the response so far has been more complacent and shambolic than our own governments in Europe; Trump theatrical as ever, recently telling everyone that it’ll all be over by Easter. Meanwhile, after weeks of non-intervention and exponential rates of infection (a terrible spike in numbers in New York especially) with other states like Florida taking no actions at all to check the spread of disease, one indication of the growing desperation is the panic-buying not just of toilet rolls, but of firearms.

On March 26th, ‘Democracy Now!’ interviewed New York City emergency room doctor Craig Spencer, a survivor of Ebola, which he contracted while fighting its outbreak in Africa. He says: “I think, in a week, we will be Italy. At least here in New York City, we’re already seeing that” [at 15:30 mins]:

Behind the scenes, on the other hand, dramatic moves are now being taken to tackle the pandemic, including ones that will sideline constitutional rights altogether. Indeed, there are clear parallels with actions taken during immediate aftermath of 9/11, its shadow lengthened by the coincidentally mysterious anthrax attacks, which enabled then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to fast-track the Patriot Acts. Likewise, today’s Justice Department is in the process of launching a raft of new legislation that further undermines civil liberties and chips away at fundamental human rights:

Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. POLITICO also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions. […]

In one of the documents, the department proposed that Congress grant the attorney general power to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

The proposal would also grant those top judges broad authority to pause court proceedings during emergencies. It would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings,” according to draft legislative language the department shared with Congress. […]

The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus — the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release.

“Not only would it be a violation of that, but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest,’” said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.” 2

Click here to read the full article published by Politico.

In an article published by Mint Press News a few days later, Whitney Webb picked up where Politico left off, highlighting plans for ‘Continuity of Government’ (COG) and the use of a controversial database known simply as ‘Main Core’ that lists American dissidents and “potential troublemakers”:

Though Main Core was reportedly in use after September 11 to target “unfriendly” individuals for increased domestic surveillance, concern that COG plans in the age of coronavirus could take a more drastic turn and involve the detention of Americans included in that database now seems more plausible than ever. On Saturday, Politico reported that the Department of Justice has demanded new “emergency powers” during the current pandemic and these powers include being able to indefinitely detain Americans without trial. Politico also noted that the DOJ’s controversial new requests “span several stages of the legal process, from initial arrest to how cases are processed and investigated.” Per the DOJ’s requests, indefinite detention would emerge through a new ability whereby the Attorney General or a judge could pause court proceedings whenever courts are “fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

What Politico did not include in its report is that current Attorney General William Barr has spent the past several months fine-tuning and implementing a “pre-crime” program. Officially known as the “National Disruption and Early Engagement Program” (DEEP), it aims to “identify, assess and engage” potentially violent individuals “before they strike.” Barr first announced this program last October in an official memorandum and therein stated that the program was to be implemented sometime over the course of 2020 and would involve “an efficient, effective and programmatic strategy to disrupt individuals who are mobilizing towards violence, by all lawful means.”

Whitney Webb continues:

In his memorandum, Barr further notes that the program’s “early engagement tactics” were “born of the posture we adopted with respect to terrorist threats” following the September 11 attacks, essentially stating that this pre-crime program will utilize methods from the “War on Terror” domestically and on a massive scale.

Adding:

Furthermore, with the FBI having recently flagged “conspiracy theorists” (and by extension those who distrust or question government narratives of both past and present) as a “domestic terror threat,” the DOJ could even make the case that failure to blindly trust government narratives presents a threat to the public order. Given that the Main Core database in its current form contains bulk surveillance gathered from social media, phone conversations/messaging apps and even financial information (i.e. purchasing history, etc.) on Americans deemed unfriendly “often for the slightest and most trivial reason,” this unprecedented power grab by the DOJ has an authoritarian and Orwellian potential to target legitimate dissent like never before. 3

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article entitled “Coronavirus: What Newsweek Failed to Mention About ‘Continuity of Government’”.

Moreover, under the pretext of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Washington recently extended FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), and specifically the three Patriot Act provisions:

With the nation’s attention fixed on the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to extend FBI surveillance powers that were set to expire on March 15.

The bill, formally titled the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act, cleared the House by a vote of 278 to 136, with 152 Democrats and 126 Republicans voting yes. View the full roll call here.

The legislation, strongly opposed by civil liberties groups and privacy advocates, is the product of bipartisan negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.).

Attorney General William Barr voiced his support for the measure in a statement on Wednesday.

If passed by the Senate, advocacy group Free Press warned, legislation would “reauthorize abusive government surveillance powers.”

“The bill would reauthorize Section 215 powers Congress established under the USA Patriot Act in 2001,” Free Press noted. “Section 215 is the provision national security agencies cited in the past to support their unwarranted collection of phone records of hundreds of millions of people in the United States.” 4

Click here to read the full report published by Common Dreams.

There has been a terrible recent history when it comes to the emergency management of disasters in America. These legislative preparations and the tightening of lockdowns to tackle coronavirus recall not only the power grab after 9/11 but also, and just as alarmingly, the institution of de facto martial law when New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina forced New Orleans poet Shelton Alexander to evacuate his home, he took his truck and video camera to the Superdome. He escaped the chaotic shelter a few days later with a truckload of people and video documentation of history:

It is rather too easy to take our rights and democratically enshrined freedoms for granted, when in fact these are constantly under attack. And during times of crisis, when an opportunistic executive is able to avoid scrutiny, when lawmakers can retreat into the shadows to begin reshaping long-held constitutional rights, democracy is especially vulnerable. In abandoning its democracy principles, all in the name of protecting its citizens from this new invisible enemy, America seems to be trailing the way as it did after 9/11 (Israel too – see the video below), and the rest of the world would do well to pay attention.

On March 25th, Greg Wilpert, host of ‘The Real News Network’, spoke with Antony Loewenstein, author of ‘Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe’, about how the Israeli government’s state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic is being used to shut down political debate and the right to protest:

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Update: New coronavirus law ‘bestows unlimited powers’ on Orbán government

On the same day I posted this article [March 30th] Amnesty International issued the following press release:

Following a decision by the Hungarian parliament to pass a new law that will allow the Government to rule by decree – without a clear end date or periodic reviews – under an extended state of emergency, David Vig, Amnesty International’s Hungary Director, said:

“This bill creates an indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency, and gives Viktor Orbán and his Government carte blanche to restrict human rights.

“This is not the way to address the very real crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need strong safeguards to ensure that any measures to restrict human rights adopted under the state of emergency are strictly necessary and proportional in order to protect public health. This new law bestows unlimited powers to the government to rule by decree beyond the pandemic.

“During his years as Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has overseen a rollback of human rights in Hungary, stoking up hostility towards marginalised groups and attempting to muzzle Hungary’s critical voices. Allowing his government to rule by decree is likely to speed up this rollback.”

Rule by decree

The new law will allow Hungary’s Government to rule by decree without a sunset clause or any other provision that would guarantee parliament can exercise proper oversight. It also creates two new crimes which would mean that anyone who publicises false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public, or that “alarm or agitate” the public, could be punished by up to five years in prison. Anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.

Amnesty is warning that these measures are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards. Plans for the new law were criticised last week by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the International Press Institute, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Click here to read the same press release on the Amnesty International website.

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1 Quote originally used by Benjamin Franklin for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its “Reply to the Governor” (November 11, 1755).

2 From an article entitled “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic” written by Betsy Woodruff Swan, published in Politico on March 21, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023

3 From an article entitled “Coronavirus: What Newsweek Failed to Mention About ‘Continuity of Government’” written by Whitney Webb, published in Mint Press News on March 23, 2020. https://www.mintpressnews.com/coronavirus-what-newsweek-failed-mention-continuity-government/265954/ 

4 From an article entitled “152 House Democrats Join GOP to Reuathorize ‘Abusive Government Surveillence Powers’” written by Jake Johnson, published by Common Dreams on March 12, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/12/152-house-democrats-join-gop-reauthorize-abusive-government-surveillance-powers

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Bilderberg 2017: what’s being cooked up at Chantilly, Virginia?

This post is a little more rushed than usual so apologies in advance for typos, grammatical errors, issues of style, etc – I will most probably update this article after Sunday’s close with additional observations, videos, and so forth. Meanwhile, here are some prompt sketches based upon on-the-ground reports plus limited mainstream coverage of the event so far…

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Starters with frothy cream

Named after an obscure association with the French town, chateau and dessert topping, this “census-designated place” of 25,000 people in Fairfax County on the fringes of Washington DC is about to welcome a more controversial kind of cream: the secretive annual meeting of world leaders, CEOs, financiers and power brokers known as the Bilderberg Group.

“… a more controversial kind of cream” Ooh er missus!

This ham-fisted flattery heads an “article” (even within quotes “article” is generous) written by the obsequious Phil Hoad and shamelessly published in the Guardian on the eve of this year’s Bilderberg meeting. Titled “Chantilly in the spotlight: inside the secretive Bilderberg’s ‘home from home’” author Mr Toady continues:

In fact, Chantilly’s Westfields Marriott hotel, hosting this year’s meeting from 1-4 June, has become the Bilderberg’s home from home in recent times, having also served as the conference’s venue in 2002, 2008 and 2012. Sure to be in attendance are the scrum of protesters, alt-media, conspiracy theorists, Illuminati watchers and anyone else keen to see the world elite turn into lizards after supping blood out of the Holy Grail at midnight…

A glance left reveals how “the content” (scant as it is) “is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation”, although the piece itself makes no direct mention of David Rockefeller, a founder member of Bilderberg and, prior to his death in March, the most notorious of all the boring old patriarchs of the club. But then this “article” makes no mention of anyone connected to Bilderberg, and nor does it provide serious journalistic speculation on what this “critical mass of movers and shakers” might be doing other than:

… either benignly spitballing global policy or carving up the future between themselves (depending on your paranoia levels) …

Which is NOT journalism. It’s not even ‘fake news’, but totally fatuous and content-free dross. At one level, the whole “article” is brochure-speak: frothy and bland. On another, it is a snide if clumsy assault on what the author tacitly rejects: free and unrestricted investigative reporting. It doesn’t matter how or why “Bilderberg flies beneath the radar in Chantilly”; it just does – and more power to them! Whilst those who aren’t enamoured by the thought of this billionaire club mixing it (“in private”) with our senior politicians are evidently crazy, tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist nutjobs who believe in alien lizards… so there!!!

Click here if you really want to read any more of this vacuous and execrable flimflam – but you are only encouraging more of it.

Alternatively, and for more considered thoughts on this whole alien lizard schtick, click here to read my extended review of last year’s meeting in Dresden.

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Appetiser: lightly grilled Bilderberger

One notable change at this year’s confab is the record number of attendees from inside our press and media ranks. During previous years there have always been a handful of house-trained “journalists” but the quota on this occasion exceeds 10% of the total cohort and includes…

Yet by observing the strict Chatham House Rules, none has actually gone to report on the inside scoop. And none of their excluded pressroom colleagues is there reporting from outside either. Charlie Skelton is again the lone mainstream maverick, and though Al Jazeera did send a small team, the real investigative work is being carried by a few freelance citizen journalists and alternative media outlets:

Indeed, as the Bilderbergers landed at nearby Washington Dulles International Airport, Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange and Dan Dicks of Press For Truth were amongst the first on hand to greet them. And wisely, they had applied for passes granting permission to film, although notwithstanding such assiduous preparations, were soon detained by police in any case – repeatedly detained and released in fact. In between bouts of police harassment, they did manage to capture some interesting footage. Here’s what a few of the attendees had to say for themselves – they certainly love to talk about the weather:

Others preferred to keep tight-lipped:

Larry Summers was especially taciturn:

Whereas Canadian Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, did provide some comment:

A few were more talkative still – a video compilation is included in a later section.

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Main course with vampire squid

One of the lamest arguments for failing to scrutinise Bilderberg is that since everything takes place behind closed doors there’s nothing of real interest that is open for discussion. Aside from the self-defeating nature of this position, it is also inherently false. Indeed, as the public is increasingly becoming aware, there is a great deal that can be sieved and usefully filtered from anyone’s metadata. In this instance we might glean valuable information from who turns up, their associations with fellow attendees, not to mention any extant commitments to Bilderberg’s slimline though published agenda of “key topics”.

Here, for example, are a few connections quickly traced by Charlie Skelton that link up with aforementioned Canadian Finance Minister, Bill Morneau:

And, as Charlie Skelton points up, this year’s mix includes an even heftier dollop of executives from Goldman Sachs than usual:

In the same spirit, it is certainly worthwhile to peruse Bilderberg’s official press release – this year it begins:

The 65th Bilderberg Meeting will take place from 1-4 June 2017 in Chantilly, Virginia, USA. As of today, 130 participants from 21 countries have confirmed their attendance. As ever, a diverse group of political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media has been invited. The list of participants is available here

The key topics for discussion this year include:

1. The Trump Administration: A progress report
2. Trans-Atlantic relations: options and scenarios
3. The Trans-Atlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks
4. The direction of the EU
5. Can globalisation be slowed down? [their concern is it can!]
6. Jobs, income and unrealised expectations
7. The war on information
8. Why is populism growing?
9. Russia in the international order
10. The Near East
11. Nuclear proliferation
12. China
13. Current events

More jaunty than usual, and, when boiled down, there are about half a dozen strands of immediate interest. In fact, I strongly advise reading adjacent items as correlated pairs as follows:

i) Trump and Trans-Atlantic relations – as Charlie Skelton notes:

The White House is taking no chances, sending along some big hitters from Team Trump to defend their boss: the national security adviser, HR McMaster; the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; and Trump’s new strategist, Chris Liddell. Could the president himself show up to receive his report card in person?

Skelton continues:

Henry Kissinger, the gravel-throated kingpin of Bilderberg, visited Trump at the White House a few weeks ago to discuss “Russia and other things”, and certainly, the Bilderberg conference would be the perfect opportunity for the most powerful man in the world to discuss important global issues with Trump. 1

ii) “Trans-Atlantic defence alliance” aka Nato and “the direction of the EU” – this is an ever-tightening relationship, as I have previously discussed (see here).

iii) Globalisation and jobs – there can be no mistaking which side Bilderberg is on!

iv) “Information war” and worries about that new bugbear “populism” – we might categorise these twin items as cause and effect under the separate heading ‘fake news’ (itself a manufactured trope)

v) Russia and “The Near East” which is, of course, more commonly termed the Middle East – think Syria, think Iran… an issue that is now perennial amongst Bilderberg’s biggest obsessions.

vi) Nuclear proliferation and China – here I simply refer readers to John Pilger’s excellent “The Coming War with China

The last item, “Current events”, is obviously a catch-all – although one can’t help thinking it’s included purely to extend their list to a fuller complement of thirteen (lucky for some!)

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Below is a compilation of those attendees who did speak on camera:

And on Friday 2nd, investigative reporter Tony Gosling interviewed Charlie Skelton and Luke Rudkowski. Their discussion covered a lot of ground:

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Side dish: curried favour à la Bilderberg

Say what you like about Bilderberg, but they’ve got a sense of humour. The agenda for this year’s secretive summit of the global elite is full of in-jokes. They get big laughs straight off the bat by describing themselves as “a diverse group of political leaders and experts”.

Writes Charlie Skelton in this year’s second report from his annual Bilderblog, adding:

Perhaps by “diverse” they mean that some of the participants own hedge funds, whereas others own vast industrial conglomerates. Some are on the board of HSBC, others are on the board of BP. Some are lobbyists, others are being lobbied. That sort of thing.

And Skelton’s “favourite joke” is, as he puts it:

“The war on information”. Bilderberg is concerned about fake news? The world’s most secretive conference, which is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars keeping the press away from its sacred discussions, which has spent decades lying and obfuscating about itself, wants to ensure the spread of truth?

As an illustration of their temerity, Skelton then points to the flagrant denial of the attendance of World Bank executive director, Fernando Jiménez Latorre, who was spotted on the backseat of a limo with Spanish Finance Minister, Luis de Guindos, although not listed amongst the attendees:

As Skelton says:

If Bilderberg wants an answer to “Why is populism growing?” – another question on the agenda – they might take a look in the mirror. It’s almost as if people aren’t all that comfortable with unaccountable technocratic elites and billionaire globalists lobbying their ministers and party leaders behind closed doors.

The optics are awful. To see Spain’s minister of the economy being locked away for three days with Ana Botín, the head of Banco Santander, Spain’s largest bank, while around them swirl Goldman Sachs executives, hedge fund owners and the secretary general of Nato, and then not see a press conference at the end of it … this might be part of the problem. 2

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article entitled “Bilderberg: the world’s most secretive conference is as out of touch as ever”.

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Just desserts?

Surely the most eye-popping sentence in this year’s official press release is this one:

Founded in 1954 and chaired for the first twenty years by a former SS officer, the Bilderberg Meeting is an annual conference designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.

Just why, all of a sudden, did Bilderberg choose to remind the world of their own unsavoury origins? Candour is not the Bilderberg style, and neither is bravado. Yet this statement looks deliberately crafted to signify a new defiance. Dropping in a reference to their own Nazi connections and then immediately switching focus as if the whole matter is of no importance, serves as a sort of two-fingered salute to the rest of us.

But conceivably, this odd sort of swagger may be indicative of growing paranoia within the club: a boastfulness to cover the cracks as “the secret of rulers of the world” (according to Jon Ronson, many like to imagine themselves this way) are losing “the war on information” and with it their tight grip on public perception.

It could very well be that at the rotten heart of Bilderberg, the same “elites” who steered the political course of our post-war western societies, are now suddenly feeling the strain as a direct consequence their own dire socio-economic mismanagement. So are we witnessing signs of desperation just as the wheels of our financial-military-industrial complex, already creaking rather badly, start coming off altogether?

Or is this merely wishful thinking? Perhaps. The undoing of our horribly corrupt global corporatocracy, so painstakingly erected, is an urgent matter. For what has been christened a “new world order” by some within this same Atlanticist set is nothing but a twisted and ruinous simulacrum of true internationalism.

We are already in perilous times. Western democracy was hard won, and will be far harder to recover if we allow it to be stolen away again. At Bilderberg that theft is ongoing, as year on year the oligarchs and plutocrats gather to feast with their political counterparts, all greedy for power and influence. And every year there is less and less on our own plates. Is this what we deserve?

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Comments to Guardian “awaiting moderation”

A friend added the following comment to Phil Hoad’s pathetic puff piece:

Has no one noticed this Cities section is actually sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation. I think that should tell you all you need to know about this article. One should question the author’s intent/collusion, and ask who paid for this article to be written?

And then this one:

Considering Rockefeller is a name integrally interwoven with the history of Bilderberg, it seems ironic that The Rockefeller Foundation actually sponsored this Cities section in which this article appears! Is this just a coincidence no one else has spotted?

Neither passed the scrutiny of the moderator. So much for “comment is free”.

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1 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2017: secret meeting of global leaders could prove a problem for Trump” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 1, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/01/bilderberg-trump-administration-secret-meeting

2 From an article entitled Bilderberg: The world’s most secretive conference is as out of touch as ever” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 2, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/02/bilderberg-secretive-conference-eric-schmidt

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Craig Murray on the corporate media’s selective filtering of the ‘Panama Papers’ leak

Corporate Media Gatekeepers Protect Western 1% From Panama Leak

by Craig Murray

Whoever leaked the Mossack Fonseca papers appears motivated by a genuine desire to expose the system that enables the ultra wealthy to hide their massive stashes, often corruptly obtained and all involved in tax avoidance. These Panamanian lawyers hide the wealth of a significant proportion of the 1%, and the massive leak of their documents ought to be a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately the leaker has made the dreadful mistake of turning to the western corporate media to publicise the results. In consequence the first major story, published today by the Guardian, is all about Vladimir Putin and a cellist on the fiddle. As it happens I believe the story and have no doubt Putin is bent.

But why focus on Russia? Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, which received the leak, gives a detailed explanation of the methodology the corporate media used to search the files. The main search they have done is for names associated with breaking UN sanctions regimes. The Guardian reports this too and helpfully lists those countries as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia and Syria. The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

among many others. Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.

Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland. A superannuated UK peer or two will be sacrificed – someone already with dementia.

The corporate media – the Guardian and BBC in the UK – have exclusive access to the database which you and I cannot see. They are protecting themselves from even seeing western corporations’ sensitive information by only looking at those documents which are brought up by specific searches such as UN sanctions busters. Never forget the Guardian smashed its copies of the Snowden files on the instruction of MI6.

What if they did Mossack Fonseca database searches on the owners of all the corporate media and their companies, and all the editors and senior corporate media journalists? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on all the most senior people at the BBC? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every donor to the Center for Public Integrity and their companies?

What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every listed company in the western stock exchanges, and on every western millionaire they could trace?

That would be much more interesting. I know Russia and China are corrupt, you don’t have to tell me that. What if you look at things that we might, here in the west, be able to rise up and do something about?

And what if you corporate lapdogs let the people see the actual data?

UPDATE

Hundreds of thousands of people have read this post in the 11 hours since it was published – despite it being overnight here in the UK. There are 235,918 “impressions” on twitter (as twitter calls them) and over 3,700 people have “shared” so far on Facebook, bringing scores of new readers each.

I would remind you that this blog is produced free for the public good and you are welcome to republish or re-use this article or any other material freely anywhere without requesting further permission.

Click here to read article as it was originally published by Craig Murray on Sunday 3rd.

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC.

From an article entitled “What are the Panama Papers? A guide to the biggest data leak in history” written by Luke Harding Published in the Guardian on April 4, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/03/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-panama-papers

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Avaaz: manufacturing consent for wars since 2011

Four years ago I received an email from the internet campaign group Avaaz which read:

“Together, we’ve sent 450,000 emails to the UN Security Council, “overwhelming” the Council President and helping to win targeted sanctions and a justice process for the Libyan people. Now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry for a no-fly zone.” [Bold as in the original.]

Of course, that no-fly zone was Nato’s justification for a war – “no-fly zone” means war. So the bloodshed wasn’t about to be stopped, it was about to begin in earnest:

The foreign media has largely ceased to cover Libya because it rightly believes it is too dangerous for journalists to go there. Yet I remember a moment in the early summer of 2011 in the frontline south of Benghazi when there were more reporters and camera crews present than there were rebel militiamen. Cameramen used to ask fellow foreign journalists to move aside when they were filming so that this did not become too apparent. In reality, Gaddafi’s overthrow was very much Nato’s doing, with Libyan militiamen mopping up.

Executing regime change in Libya cost the lives of an estimated 20,000 people: but this was only the immediate death toll, and as a civil war rages on, the final figure keeps rising, indefinitely and seemingly inexorably. And the number of victims will go on rising for so long as there is lawlessness and chaos in a country now completely overrun with terrorists and warlords. So what was started with a “no-fly zone” is ending with a hell on earth: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Given their unpardonable role in instigating this entirely avoidable human catastrophe, does it come as any surprise when, with “mission accomplished”, the media chose to turn its back on the carnage in Libya? Patrick Cockburn, who wrote the article from which the above quote is taken, has been a rare exception to the rule. A journalist who was not so quick to swallow the official line, he has since been committed to telling the bigger story, which includes the falsity of Nato’s original justifications for air strikes:

Human rights organisations have had a much better record in Libya than the media since the start of the uprising in 2011. They discovered that there was no evidence for several highly publicised atrocities supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces that were used to fuel popular support for the air war in the US, Britain, France and elsewhere. These included the story of the mass rape of women by Gaddafi’s troops that Amnesty International exposed as being without foundation. The uniformed bodies of government soldiers were described by rebel spokesmen as being men shot because they were about to defect to the opposition. Video film showed the soldiers still alive as rebel prisoners so it must have been the rebels who had executed them and put the blame on the government.

So here is a pattern that repeats with uncanny consistency, and with the mainstream media’s failure to discover and report on the truth also recurring with near parallel regularity. We had the ‘Babies out of incubators’ story in Kuwait, and then those WMDs in Iraq that, as Bush Jnr joked, “have got to be here somewhere”, to offer just two very well-established prior instances of the kinds of lies that have taken us to war.

Patrick Cockburn continues:

Foreign governments and media alike have good reason to forget what they said and did in Libya in 2011, because the aftermath of the overthrow of Gaddafi has been so appalling. The extent of the calamity is made clear by two reports on the present state of the country, one by Amnesty International called “Libya: Rule of the gun – abductions, torture and other militia abuses in western Libya” and a second by Human Rights Watch, focusing on the east of the country, called “Libya: Assassinations May Be Crimes Against Humanity”.1

Click here to read Patrick Cockburn’s full article published last November.

But accusations do not stop even at the deplorable roles played by “foreign governments and media alike”, but apply to all of the various warmongering parties at that time, and one of the groups we must also point the finger to is Avaaz. For it was Avaaz, more than any other campaign group, who pushed alongside Nato in their call for the “no-fly zone” which got the whole war going. To reiterate, since it is vitally important that this is understood, a “no-fly zone” always and without exception means war:

Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian – putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.

No wonder, too, that it is rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic. The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement.2

So wrote John Hilary in an excellent article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” published on the cusp of “intervention”.

In response, Ben Wikler, a campaign director at Avaaz, posted a comment that included the following remarks:

Would imposing a no-fly zone lead to a full-blown international war? No-fly zones can mean a range of different things.

Wikler is wrong and Hilary correct: “no-fly zones” always mean war. And as a consequence, those at Avaaz like Ben Wikler now have blood on their hands – and yet are unrepentant.

Yes, as with most others who were directly or indirectly culpable, “foreign governments and media alike”, it seems Avaaz too are suffering from collective amnesia. Not only have they forgotten the terrible consequences of imposing a “no-fly zone” on Libya, but they also seem to have forgotten their own deliberate efforts when it came to bolstering public support for that “bloody and calamitous” (to use Cockburn’s words) “foreign intervention” (to use the weasel euphemisms of Nato and the West). Because instead of reflecting upon the failings of Nato’s air campaign four years ago, and without offering the slightest murmur of apology for backing it (not that apologies help at all), Avaaz are now calling upon their supporters to forget our murderous blundering of the recent past, with calls for the same action all over again… this time in Syria.

It was yesterday when I received the latest email from Avaaz. Don’t worry, I’m not a supporter (although the simple fact I receive their emails means by their own definition, I am presumably counted one), but after Libya I chose to remain on their mailing list simply to keep an eye on what they were doing. And (not for the first or the second time) they are selling us on more war:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

But today there is a chance to stop these barrel bomb murders with a targeted No Fly Zone.

The US, Turkey, UK, France and others are right now seriously considering a safe zone in Northern Syria. Advisers close to President Obama support it, but he is worried he won’t have public support. That’s where we come in.

Let’s tell him we don’t want a world that just watches as a dictator drops chemical weapons on families in the night. We want action.

One humanitarian worker said ‘I wish the world could see what I have seen with my eyes. It breaks your heart forever.’ Let’s show that the world cares — sign to support a life-saving No Fly Zone

Obviously, I am not supplying the link for this latest call to arms: “a[nother] life-saving No Fly Zone”.

After Avaaz called for war against Libya back in 2011, I wrote a restrained article. But I was too polite. When they called for war again following the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, I hesitated again and looked into the facts. They didn’t stack up (as I explained at length in another post). But nor did I damn Avaaz on that occasion, as I ought to have done, when with Libya already ablaze they set up a campaign like this (sorry that it’s hard to read):

 

Since that time it has become evident to the world (at least the one outside the Avaaz office) that it has been Syrian forces who have most successfully fought back against Islamist extremists (al-Qaeda, but now more often called ISIS) who not only use poison gas to murder their enemies and spread fear, but methods so barbaric and depraved – public mass beheadings, crucifixions and even cannibalism – that you wonder which century we are living in. But Avaaz push the blame for all of this killing back on to the Assad regime, just as the West (whose close allies continue to back the so-called “rebels”) have also tried to do. And Avaaz are now saying (once again) that escalating the conflict is the way to save the people of Syria – so don’t worry if it spreads the infection now called ISIS – more love bombs are the preferred Avaaz solution for every complex political situation:

“Today, Gadhafi is dead, and the Libyan people have their first chance for democratic, accountable governance in decades…. American casualties were zero. Insurgent fighters and the vast majority of the population have cheered the victory as liberation, and courageous Syrians who face daily threats of death for standing up to their own repressive regime have taken comfort in Gadhafi’s fall. These accomplishments are no small feats for those who care about human dignity, democracy, and stability….

Progressives often demand action in the face of abject human suffering, but we know from recent history that in some situations moral condemnation, economic sanctions, or ex-post tribunals don’t save lives. Only force does.”

These are the self-congratulatory words of Tom Perriello, the co-founder of Avaaz, writing in late 2012. And he finishes the same piece:

We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering. 3

Independent investigative journalist, Cory Morningstar, who has probed very deeply into the organization says, “Make no mistake – this is the ideology at the helm of Avaaz.org.”

As she explains:

Tom Perriello is a long-time collaborator with Ricken Patel. Together, they co-founded Avaaz.org, Res Publica and FaithfulAmerica.org.

Perriello is a former U.S. Representative (represented the 5th District of Virginia from 2008 to 2010) and a founding member of the House Majority Leader’s National Security Working Group.

Perriello was also co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He worked for Reverend Dr. James Forbes on “prophetic justice” principles. Many of these organizations were created with the intent of creating a broad-based “religious left” movement. […]

Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

As Cory Morningstar also points out:

In December 2011, Perriello disclosed that he served as special adviser to the international war crimes prosecutor and has spent extensive time in 2011 in Egypt and the Middle East researching the Arab Spring. Therefore, based on this disclosure alone, there can be no doubt that the deliberate strategy being advanced by Avaaz cannot be based upon any type of ignorance or naïveté. 4

“It breaks your heart forever.” That was the heading under which yesterday’s email arrived and the way it signed off went as follows: “With hope, John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest of the Avaaz team”. And this is how they come again with further ploys to prick your conscience. So do please remember before you click on their pastel-coloured links or forward those ‘messages’ to your own friends, how they beat the drums to war on two earlier occasions. In 2013, when they last called for the bombing of Syria (but the war party were halted in their mission), and in 2011 when they first aided Nato’s grand deception and helped to bring unremitting horrors to the innocent people of Libya. Keep in mind too, how lacking in guilt they have been in light of their own imploring role during the run up to the full “shock and awe” display over Tripoli.

Because John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest… are really not our friends. They are humanitarian hawks, who are in the business of manufacturing consent for every Nato “intervention”. Indeed, I would like to ask John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest, in good faith, just how do you sleep at night?

Click here to read a thorough examination of Avaaz put together by independent investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

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Additional:

Here is an open letter I constructed in Summer 2012, but then decided not to post:

Dear Ricken, Eli and the whole Avaaz team,

By your own rather loose definition, I have been a member of Avaaz now for several years. In other words I responded to one of your campaigns many moons ago, and have never subsequently withdrawn my name from your mailing list. I believe that under your own terms, I am thus one of the many millions of your ‘members’. You presume that all those like me who are ‘in the Avaaz community’ support your various campaigns simply because we are on your contact list, although in my own case, this is absolutely not the case. I have ceased to support any of the Avaaz campaigns since you pushed for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, and from this time on, have kept up with your campaign messages simply to keep an eye on you. I vowed never again to sign any of your petitions on the grounds that I do not wish to be a supporter of any organisation that backs an aggressive and expansionist war.

The most common criticism of Avaaz, and other internet campaign groups, is that it encourages ‘slacktivism’, which is indeed a very valid concern:

Sites such as Avaaz, suggested Micah White in the Guardian last year, often only deal with middle-of-the-road causes, to the exclusion of niche interests: “They are the Walmart of activism . . . and silence underfunded radical voices.” More infamously, internet theorist Evgeny Morozov has called the likes of Avaaz “Slacktivists”, claiming that they encourage previously tenacious activists to become lazy and complacent.

There’s also the issue of breadth. Clicktivist websites often cover a range of issues that have little thematic or geographical relation to each other, which leaves them open to accusations of dilettantism.

Click here to read Patrick Kingsey’s full article in the Guardian.

Ricken Patel’s response to Kingsley is to point to their campaign against Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB:

“Our activism played a critical role in delaying the BskyB deal until the recent scandal was able to kill it,” Avaaz‘s founder, New York-based Ricken Patel, tells me via Skype. 5

So is this really the best example Avaaz has to offer? Since the BSkyB deal would undoubtedly have been stymied for all sorts of other reasons, not least of which were the various phone hacking scandals, and most shockingly, in the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone. This more than anything killed off the Murdoch bid for BSkyB.

We might also give a little grudging credit to Business Secretary Vince Cable, who in late 2010 revealed privately to undercover reporters that he was ‘declaring war’ on Rupert Murdoch. This caused such a storm that Tory leader David Cameron came out against Cable, describing his comments as “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband immediately followed suite saying that he would have gone further and sacked Cable 6. In any case, Murdoch was coming under attack from many fronts (including, as shown by Cable’s example, a maverick offensive from inside the government), and so there were already growing calls for a review of the BskyB deal. As it turns out, the deal itself was seriously compromised by a conflict of interests involving Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe, not that this widely reported – I wrote a post on it just before the deal suddenly collapsed. In fact, I had tried in vain to get a number of politicians to look into this aspect of the case, but none at all even bothered to reply. The story the media were telling quickly moved on, and so the role of Ofcom remains more or less unscrutinised.

But I have a far bigger problem with Avaaz than simply the matter of its lack of effectiveness. Since even if Avaaz has achieved nothing concrete whatsoever, which might well be the case, its growing prominence as a campaign group is undoubtedly helping to frame the protest agenda. Picking and choosing what are and aren’t important issues is dilettantism, yes, and also, potentially at least, “the manufacturing of dissent”. Avaaz‘s defence is that it is an independent body – oh, really?

Co-founder and Director of Avaaz, Ricken Patel said in 2011 “We have no ideology per se. Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!”

“No ideology per se”? So what then are we to make of your association with another organisation called Res Publica, of which Patel is a fellow, and Eli Pariser has also been a member of the Advisor Board.

Res Publica (US) is described by wikipedia as “a US organization promoting ‘good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.’”, though there is no article on the group itself, and nor, for that matter, any entry on Ricken Patel himself. If I visit the Res Publica website, however, the link I immediately find takes me straight to George Soros’ Open Democracy group and also the International Crisis Group of which Soros is again a member of the Executive Committee. The International Crisis Group that gets such glowing endorsements from peace-loving individuals as (and here I quote directly from the website):

President Bill Clinton (‘in the most troubled corners of the world, the eyes, the ears and the conscience of the global community’); successive U.S. Secretaries of State (Condoleezza Rice: ‘a widely respected and influential organisation’, Colin Powell: ‘a mirror for the conscience of the world’ and Madeleine Albright: ‘a full-service conflict prevention organisation’); and former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the late Richard Holbrooke (‘a brilliant idea… beautifully implemented’ with reports like CrisisWatch ‘better than anything I saw in government’).

Whilst according to Res Publica‘s own website Ricken Patel has himself “consulted for the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation…”

To cut to the quick then, Avaaz claims to independence are simply a sham. Whether foundation funded or not, you are undeniably foundation affiliated. Which brings me to your recent campaigns.

In a letter which I received on Wednesday 11th January, you wrote, typically vaingloriously, about the significance of Avaaz in bringing about and supporting the uprisings of Arab Spring:

Across the Arab world, people power has toppled dictator after dictator, and our amazing Avaaz community has been at the heart of these struggles for democracy, breaking the media blackouts imposed by corrupt leaders, empowering citizen journalists, providing vital emergency relief to communities under siege, and helping protect hundreds of activists and their families from regime thugs.

When all that I can actually recall is some jumping on the bandwagon and your support for the ‘shock and awe’ assault that we saw lighting up the skies over Tripoli. Gaddafi was ousted, of course, much as Saddam Hussein had been by the Bush administration, and likewise, the country remains in chaos. But does the removal of any dictator justify the killing of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people in the first months of the Libyan war – these figures according to Cherif Bassiouni, who led a U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Tripoli and rebel-held areas in late April. 7 Figures that officially rose to 25,000 people killed and 60,000 injured, after the attacks on Gaddafi’s besieged hometown of Sirte. 8 The true overall casualties of the Libyan war remain unknown, as they do in Iraq, although a conservative estimate is that around 30,000 people lost their lives. Avaaz, since you called for this, you must wash some of that blood from your own hands.

Now you are calling for ‘action’ against Syria, on the basis this time of your own report which finds that “crimes against humanity were committed by high-level members of the Assad regime”. Now, let me say that I do not in the least doubt that the Assad regime is involved in the secret detainment and torture of its opponents. The terrible truth is that such human rights abuses are routinely carried out all across the Middle East, and in many places on behalf or in collusion with Western security services such as the CIA. Back in September 2010, PolitiFact.com wrote about the Obama administration’s record on so-called “extraordinary renditions” [from wikipedia with footnote preserved]:

The administration has announced new procedural safeguards concerning individuals who are sent to foreign countries. President Obama also promised to shut down the CIA-run “black sites,” and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that extreme renditions are not happening, at least not as much as they did during the Bush administration. Still, human rights groups say that these safeguards are inadequate and that the DOJ Task Force recommendations still allow the U.S. to send individuals to foreign countries.[158]

Whilst back in April 2009, on the basis of what he had witnessed in Uzbekistan, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004, Craig Murray, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture”. In answers to questions, he explained to the committee how the UK government disguises its complicity and that he believed it has, in effect, helped to create “a market for torture”:

If I may refer to the documents on waterboarding and other torture techniques released recently in the United States on the orders of President Obama, if we are continuing to receive, as we are, all the intelligence reports put out by the CIA we are complicit in a huge amount of torture. I was seeing just a little corner in Uzbekistan. [p. 73]

I think the essence of the government’s position is that if you receive intelligence material from people who torture, be it CIA waterboarding, or torture by the Uzbek authorities or anywhere else, you can do so ad infinitum knowing that it may come from torture and you are still not complicit. [bottom p. 74]

Their position remains the one outlined by Sir Michael Wood, and it was put to me that if we receive intelligence from torture we were not complicit as long as we did not do the torture ourselves or encouraged it. I argue that we are creating a market for torture and that there were pay-offs to the Uzbeks for their intelligence co-operation and pay-offs to other countries for that torture. I think that a market for torture is a worthwhile concept in discussing the government’s attitude. [p. 75]

The government do not volunteer the fact that they very happily accept this information. I make it absolutely plain that I am talking of hundreds of pieces of intelligence every year that have come from hundreds of people who suffer the most vicious torture. We are talking about people screaming in agony in cells and our government’s willingness to accept the fruits of that in the form of hundreds of such reports every year. I want the Joint committee to be absolutely plain about that. [bot p.75] 9

Click here to watch all of parts of Craig Murray’s testimony.

Here is the introduction to Amnesty International‘s Report from last year:

Over 100 suspects in security-related offences were detained in 2010. The legal status and conditions of imprisonment of thousands of security detainees arrested in previous years, including prisoners of conscience, remained shrouded in secrecy. At least two detainees died in custody, possibly as a result of torture, and new information came to light about methods of torture and other ill-treatment used against security detainees. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out. Women and girls remained subject to discrimination and violence, with some cases receiving wide media attention. Both Christians and Muslims were arrested for expressing their religious beliefs.

But not for Syria – for Saudi Arabia report-2011.

And it continues:

Saudi Arabian forces involved in a conflict in northern Yemen carried out attacks that appeared to be indiscriminate or disproportionate and to have caused civilian deaths and injuries in violation of international humanitarian law. Foreign migrant workers were exploited and abused by their employers. The authorities violated the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. At least 27 prisoners were executed, markedly fewer than in the two preceding years.

Further down we read that:

At least 140 prisoners were under sentence of death, including some sentenced for offences not involving violence, such as apostasy and sorcery.

Not that Amnesty‘s report on Syria report-2011 is any less deplorable:

The authorities remained intolerant of dissent. Those who criticized the government, including human rights defenders, faced arrest and imprisonment after unfair trials, and bans from travelling abroad. Some were prisoners of conscience. Human rights NGOs and opposition political parties were denied legal authorization. State forces and the police continued to commit torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, and there were at least eight suspicious deaths in custody. The government failed to clarify the fate of 49 prisoners missing since a violent incident in 2008 at Saydnaya Military Prison, and took no steps to account for thousands of victims of enforced disappearances in earlier years. Women were subject to discrimination and gender-based violence; at least 22 people, mostly women, were victims of so-called honour killings. Members of the Kurdish minority continued to be denied equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. At least 17 people were executed, including a woman alleged to be a victim of physical and sexual abuse.

Please correct me, but so far as I’m aware, Avaaz have been entirely silent in their condemnation of the human rights violations of either Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia (two countries that maintain very close ties with the US). Silent too when Saudi forces brutally cracked down on the Arab Spring protests in neighbouring Bahrain. So one could be forgiven for thinking that when Avaaz picks and chooses its fights, those it takes up are, if not always in the geo-strategic interests of the United States, then certainly never against those interests.

Back to your call for action against Syria and the letter continues:

We all had hoped that the Arab League’s monitoring mission could stop the violence, but they have been compromised and discredited. Despite witnessing Assad’s snipers first-hand, the monitors have just extended their observation period without a call for urgent action. This is allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action, while the regime’s pathetic defense for its despicable acts has been that it is fighting a terrorist insurgency, not a peaceful democracy movement.

Well, I’m not sure that anyone was expecting much from the Arab League, but can you really justify what you are saying here? That the violence now taking place in Syria is against an entirely “peaceful democracy movement” and that Syria is in no way facing a terrorist insurgency. Not that such an insurgency is entirely unjustified; after all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But that both sides are involved in atrocities, since both sides are evidently armed and the rebels are undeniably backed by militant Islamist groups.

Making statements such as “allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action”, directly implies that these foreign powers are simply protecting their own selfish interests (which is, of course, true), whereas the US is intent only on defending freedom and human rights. Such a gross oversimplification and plain nonsense.

So far, I note, Avaaz have not called for direct ‘military intervention’ in Syria, unlike in the shameful case of Libya. But given the timing of this latest announcement and on the basis of past form, I’m expecting petitions for what amounts to war (such as the ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya) will follow soon enough.

And so to your latest campaign, which I received by email on Tuesday 10th April. It begins:

Dear Friends,

Today is a big day for Avaaz. If you join in, Avaaz might just move from having a small team of 40 campaigners to having 40,000!!

Then goes on to explain how the reach of Avaaz will be broadened by encouraging everyone to write their own campaign petitions:

So, to unlock all the incredible potential of our community to change the world, we’ve developed our website tools and website to allow any Avaazer to instantly start their *own* online petitions, tell friends, and win campaigns.

The site just went live – will you give it a try? Think of a petition you’d like to start on any issue – something impacting your local community, some bad behaviour by a distant corporation, or a global cause that you think other Avaaz members would care about. If your petition takes off, it may become an Avaaz campaign – either to members in your area, or even to the whole world!

On the face of it, you are offering a way for everyone to be involved. But 40,000 petitions…? Is this really going to change the world? I have an idea that maybe just five or six might serve the purpose better – here are my suggestions for four:

  • a call for those responsible within the Bush administration and beyond to be charged with war crimes for deliberately leading us into an illegal war with Iraq
  • the criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity of George W Bush and others who have publicly admitted to their approval of the use of torture
  • the repeal of NDAA 2012 and the rolling back of the unconstitutional US Patriot and Homeland Security Acts
  • a criminal investigation into the rampant financial fraud that created the current global debt crisis

So consider me a member of the team once more. I’m putting those four campaigns out there. Or at least I would have before I’d read your ‘Terms of Use’. For it concerns me that “In order to further the mission of this site or the mission of Avaaz, we may use, copy, distribute or disclose this material to other parties” but you do not then go on to outline who those ‘other parties’ might be. And you say you will “Remove or refuse to post any User Contributions for any or no reason. This is a decision Avaaz will strive to make fairly, but ultimately it is a decision that is solely up to Avaaz to make.”

Since you reserve the right to “remove or refuse to post” without making a clear statement of your rules and without any commitment to providing justification for such censorship, I see little reason in bothering to try. Doubtless others will attempt to build campaigns on your platform for actions regarding the very serious issues I have outlined above, and should they achieve this, then I will try to lend support to those campaigns. Alternatively, should I fail to come across campaigns formed around these and related issues, I will presume, rightly or wrongly (this is “a decision that is solely up to me to make”), that Avaaz prefers not to support such initiatives. Either way, I will not holding my breath.

*

1 From an article entitled “The West is silent as Libya falls into the abyss” written by Patrick Cockburn, published by The Independent on November 2, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-west-is-silent-as-libya-falls-into-the-abyss-9833489.html

2 From an article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” written by John Hillary, published in the Guardian on March 10, 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/10/internet-activists-libya-no-fly-zone

3 From an article entitled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed” written by Tom Perriello, published in Issue #23 Democracy Journal in Winter 2012. http://www.democracyjournal.org/23/humanitarian-intervention-recognizing-when-and-why-it-can-succeed.php?page=all

4 From an article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”, Part II, Section I, written by Cory Morningstar, published September 24, 2012. Another extract reads:

The 12 January 2012 RSVP event “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?” featured speakers from Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rosa Brooks of the New America Foundation, and none other than Tom Perriello, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Perriello advanced his “ideology” during this lecture.

http://theartofannihilation.com/imperialist-pimps-of-militarism-protectors-of-the-oligarchy-trusted-facilitators-of-war-part-ii-section-i/ 

5 From an article entitled “Avaaz: activism or ‘slacktivism’?” written by Patrick Kingsley, published in the Guardian on July 20, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/avaaz-activism-slactivism-clicktivism

6 From an article entitled “Vince Cable to stay on as Business Secretary” published by BBC news on December 21, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12053656

7 From an article entitled “Up to 15,000 killed in Libya war: U.N. Right expert” reported by Reuters on June 9. 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/09/us-libya-un-deaths-idUSTRE7584UY20110609

8 From an article entitled “Residents flee Gaddafi hometown”, written by Rory Mulholland and Jay Deshmukh, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 3, 2011. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/residents-flee-gaddafi-hometown-20111003-1l49x.html

9 From the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture” on April 28, 2009. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/152/152.pdf

Please note that when I originally posted the article the link was to a different version of the document, but it turns out that the old link (below) has now expired. For this reason I have altered the page references in accordance with the new document.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:nogix7L1-kIJ:www.craigmurray.org.uk/Uncorrected%2520Transcript%252028%2520April%252009.doc+craig+murray+evidence+parliamentary+slect+commitee&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjfCqyleDnk_maooZDF7iGJ5MC68Lb9zNDi5PCH8_9PwlwCybyXYiCD-A1E-O_j9Z5XgnOsKsvguvirw4jqJW9zjuor_secSn7aw_X1JIxHxjLw0CZON7vwOcfitFM1bB8MOsaO&sig=AHIEtbScxyI2eTh3HF2MA_yGyeAcyTsoiQ

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sheep in wolf’s clothing

Yesterday night I happened to come across an organisation I’d not heard about before. Called UK Uncut, they are one of many new protest groups that have recently taken a stand against the government cuts. Indeed, they are one of the groups trying to organise direct action on the streets of London in and around today’s big march.

According to their own website, UKU began as a single sit-down protest at a flagship Vodafone store on Oxford Street. But their method of protest, of taking direct action against tax-dodging corporations, was quickly to go viral. By means of Facebook and Twitter, this campaign has since spread far and wide across the country – and it is very likely to grab some news attention later today, presuming that some of their many “occupation” plans succeed in London.

If you click on the “About” section of their website you will find a statement of their principles:

“We start with some simple points of agreement. The brutal cuts to services about to be inflicted by the current Government are unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated. The coalition are particularly fond of two obscene catchphrases: ‘There is no alternative’ and ‘We’re all in this together.’ Both slogans are empty and untrue. The cuts will dismantle the welfare state, send inequality sky-rocketing and hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. A cabinet of millionaires have decided that libraries, healthcare, education funding, voluntary services, sports, the environment, the disabled, the poor and the elderly must pay the price for the recklessness of the rich.

“Austerity-economics is the policy of the powerful. It cannot be stopped by asking nicely. We cannot wait until the next election. If we want to win the fight against these cuts (and we can win) then we must make it impossible to ignore our arguments and impossible to resist our demands. This means building a powerful grassroots mass movement, able to resist the Government cuts at every turn.
UK Uncut hopes to play a small part in this movement. In only a few months, from a single action in London, UK Uncut has spread to up to fifty-five towns and cities. Everyone from pensioners to teenagers, veterans to newbies have already joined our actions in towns from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth. We have proved that there is anger at these cuts, that the idea of mass apathy is a myth and that people are willing to do more than just join a Facebook group to stand up and defend what they believe in.
Even if you have never been on a protest before, please join us. UK Uncut makes it easy to either join or organise an inspiring, effective protest wherever you are. Vodafone’s own slogan is ‘Power to You.’ It couldn’t be more appropriate.
Now is the time to get angry, to get organised and to build a resistance to austerity.
See you on the high streets.”

So can we disable the current government plans through such a series of sneak attacks? Well, UK Uncut seems to think it will help and one of the tabs brings up a schedule of actions past and pending.

At today’s march they are planning to occupy for the alternative:

“From 2pm flash mobs, bail-ins and occupations will shut down the dozens of banks and tax dodgers along the length of Europe’s biggest shopping street.

And at 3.30pm, after the dispersed actions, there will be a massive final convergence, ready for a spectacular mass occupation of a secret target.”

Their campaign promotion continues: “March 26th is not the end of the battle against the cuts. It is the beginning. Join us on Oxford Street and let’s help kick things off in style.”

Now that’s fighting talk if ever I heard it. And the logo is a good one. In the style of a signpost with a pair of scissors crossed through by a red band, making very clear the demand for no cuts. I’d wager that we’re likely to see a lot more of that logo in the next year or so.

Moving on, I was next drawn by the links at the bottom of the “About” page. And one of these took me to the website of openDemocracy. Having opened the attached mission statement, I followed another link to “our generous supporters” – well, it’s often a good idea to take a look just in case…

“The development of openDemocracy has been funded by the generosity of more than twenty trusts, foundations and individuals since 2001.
openDemocracy’s main source of funding has been through the Open Trust, a registered UK charity (number 1086404). The Trust has no direct stake in openDemocracy but conducts regular oversight to be sure that it is operating in conformity with the Trust’s charitable purpose.1

So what of these other trusts, foundations and individuals? Well, let’s begin with its “past supporters”. We have the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Then there is something called New World Foundation. Another click of the mouse revealing that NWF’s own partners include, the Ford Foundation and Open Society. Then we have the more recent supporters of openDemocracy. There is the Ford Foundation again in 2008. And since 2009, we have The Open Society Institute. And so the chase continued. I clicked again on the link and came to Open Society Foundations. Ever heard of them? Nope? Me neither. Here is what you find if you click on “About”:

“The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, we build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. The Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.”

Well that sounds good. So who could be behind such a progressive venture? Let’s see… “George Soros is founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations. He is also the chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC.” Would that be the George Soros? What really — again! So when UK Uncut posted their link to openDemocracy did they actually bother to consider who might actually be paying the piper?

Meanwhile, in the opposite corner, we have the Tax Payers’ Alliance. TPA is a pressure group that actually favours the government cuts, and is calling for swifter “austerity measures”. So taking the same approach, is it possible to find out who is funding this supposedly grassroots movement, with its appeal to Middle England Conservatives? Well, here again I hit a sticking point, with no information available from their own website regarding sponsorship and campaign donations. Indeed, there is now yet another organisation called “The Other Taxpayers’ Alliance” which challenges the transparency of TPA:

“Let’s look at the facts. It’s simply not true that all political organisations are secretive about their funding. Most declare their income and expenditure, and some give a break-down of income sources, including donors. The TPA does neither. It publishes abbreviated accounts which means income and expenditure are withheld. The last time it published full accounts was in 2006, when it recorded an income of £130,000. But the current organisation has ten full-time staff across two offices, which suggests either its income has jumped substantially or it is loaded with debt.”

The above extract was taken from an article on The Other Taxpayers’ Alliance.

As with UKU, it is hard to know precisely who is behind the TPA, aside from establishing its evidently close ties to the Conservative Party.2

According to Sourcewatch “It is affiliated with the World Taxpayers Association. Its initial funding came from the three directors and “generous people we know”.

Sourcewatch also shines a light on other groups the TPA has rubbed shoulders with. These include the right-wing think tank, Institute of Economic Affairs, which has close association with the odious neo-conservative Heritage Foundation. TPA held a joint seminar with the IEA in February 2004, with guest speaker Daniel J. Michell of the Heritage Foundation. According to Sourcewatch, the IEA is in turn funded by the Earhart Foundation, which depends on donations from, amongst others, the Rockefeller Brothers Trust, and a number of major corporations including Exxon and Chase Manhattan Bank.

Oh, what a tangled web of think tanks, charities and foundations we now have. Delving into pressure groups on the left and the right is like peeling back the layers of an onion. But it doesn’t actually take much peeling to reveal the extent of the current astroturfing – one click from the UK Uncut website we find Soros and the Rockefeller Foundations. One step from the Taxpayers’ Alliance and we find related foundations. So when it comes to pressure groups we ought to be careful, alert to the ever-present danger that we might all too easily end up as sheep in wolf’s clothing.

1 And so what of Open Trust? This is the charity that oversees openDemocracy, ensuring that “it is operating in conformity with the Trust’s charitable purpose.” Well, that’s where the trail finally ran out. I found no links from Google for an Open Trust website and so checked on the Charities Commission website instead.

The activities of Open Trust listed by Charity Commission are as follows:

“THE OBJECT OF THE TRUST IS THE ADVANCEMENT OF EDUCATION, NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, IN THE SOCIAL, ENVIROMENTAL [sic], POLITICAL AND BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, ECONOMICS, LAW, THE ARTS AND MEDIA COMMUNICATION AND OTHER RECOGNISED SCHOLARLY SUBJECTS.”

Registered 30th April 2001. Open Trust have no website registered, but there is an email address and a postal address that traces to a law firm.

So is that normal? For a charity to have the same address as a solicitors – I’m confused now!

2 “[But] a Guardian investigation has established that a large part of its funds come from wealthy donors, many of whom are prominent supporters of the Conservative party. Sixty per cent of donations come from individuals or groups giving more than £5,000. The Midlands Industrial Council, which has donated £1.5m to the Conservatives since 2003, said it has given around £80,000 on behalf of 32 owners of private companies. Tony Gallagher, owner of Gallagher UK, a property company that gave the Conservatives £250,000 in 2007, is a member of the MIC, as is Christopher Kelly who owns the international haulage firm Keltruck, and Robert Edmiston who owns IM Group, a large car importer.” From Guardian article “Who is behind the Taxpayers’ Alliance?” by Robert Booth, Friday 9th October 2009. Click here for full article.

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