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Archive for the ‘State Department’ Category

Beijing 2008: A Painting and its Meaning

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I stumbled across this intriguing picture on Facebook, of all places. The image was posted by a certain Joel Ng, who appears to be living in Brunei, again of all places. And this what he said by way of accompaniment: “Amazing thought-provoking painting “Beijing 2008” by Chinese-Canadian artist Liu Yi. The woman with the tattoos on her back is China. On the left, focused intensely on the game, is Japan. The one with the shirt and head cocked to the side is America. Lying provocatively on the floor is Russia. And the little girl standing to the side is Taiwan. This painting, named Beijing 2008, has been the subject of much discussion in the west as well as on the internet. What’s interesting is that this painting is called Beijing 2008, yet it depicts four women playing mahjong, and conceals a wealth of meaning within . . . China’s visible set of tiles “East Wind” has a dual meaning. First, it signifies China’s revival as a world power. Second, it signifies the military might and weaponry that China possesses has already been placed on the table. On one hand, China appears to be in a good position, but we cannot see the rest of her hand. Additionally, she is also handling some hidden tiles below the table. America looks confident, but is glancing at Taiwan, trying to read something off of Taiwan’s expression, and at the same time seems to be hinting something at Taiwan. Russia appears to be disinterested in the game, but this is far from the truth. One foot hooks coyly at America, while her hand passes a hidden tile to China, both countries can be said to be exchanging benefits in secret. Japan is all seriousness while staring at her own set of tiles, and is oblivious to the actions of the others in her self-focused state. Taiwan wears a traditional red slip, symbolizing that she is the true heir of Chinese culture and civilization. In one hand she has a bowl of fruit, and in the other, a paring knife. Her expression as she stares at China is full of anger, sadness, and hatred, but to no avail; unless she enters the game, no matter who ends up as the victor, she is doomed to a fate of serving fruit. Outside the riverbank is darkened by storm clouds, suggesting the high tension between the two nations is dangerously explosive. The painting hanging on the wall is also very meaningful; Mao’s face, but with Chiang Kai Shek’s bald head, and Sun Yat-Sen’s mustache”.a

Beijing 2008

Ng continues that the “four women’s state of undress represent the situation in each country. China is naked on top, clothed with a skirt and underwear on the bottom. America wears a bra and a light jacket, but is naked on the bottom. Russia has only her underwear left. Japan has nothing left. At first glance, America appears to be most composed and seems to be the best position, as all the others are in various states of nakedness. However, while America may look radiant, her vulnerability has already been exposed. China and Russia may look naked, yet their key private parts remain hidden. If the stakes of this game is that the loser strips off a piece of clothing, then if China loses, she will be in the same state as Russia (similar to when the USSR dissolved). If America loses, she also ends up in the same state as Russia. If Russia loses, she loses all. Japan has already lost everything. Russia seems to be a mere ‘filler’ player, but in fact is exchanging tiles with China. The real ‘filler’ player is Japan, for Japan has nothing more to lose, and if she loses just once more she is immediately out of the game. America may look like she is in the best position, but in fact is in a lot of danger, if she loses this round, she will give up her position as a world power. Russia is the most sinister, playing along with both sides, much like when China was de-occupied, she leaned towards the USSR and then towards America; as she did not have the ability to survive on her own, she had to weave between both sides in order to survive and develop. There are too many of China’s tiles that we cannot see. Perhaps suggesting that China has several hidden aces? Additionally China is also exchanging tiles with Russia, while America can only guess from Taiwan’s expression of what actions have transpired between Russia and China. Japan on the other hand is completely oblivious, still focused solely on her own set of tiles. Taiwan stares coldly at the game from aside. She sees everything that the players at the table are doing, she understands everything that is going on. But she doesn’t have the means or permission to join the game, she isn’t even given the right to speak. Even if she has a dearth of complaints, she cannot voice it to anyone, all she can do is to be a good page girl, and bring fresh fruit to the victor. The final victor lies between China and America, this much is apparent. But look closely; while America is capable, they are playing Chinese Mahjong, not Western Poker. Playing by the rules of China, how much chance at victory does America really have?”.b And that is question, particularly now that America’s nominal figurehead is a buffoon like the Drumpf, who seems to be bumbling through life as much anything else. In fact, the artist also has a Facebook page, and I imagine that enterprising or merely curious onlookers might want to query Lui Liu.c Still, I would say that Joel Ng has done an excellent job at unraveling the various layers of meaning and decoding the iconography as well as iconology of the work.

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aJoel Ng’s post in ’21SilkRd’ Facebook (01 July 2019). https://www.facebook.com/groups/947867908642430/permalink/2287003388062202/.

b Joel Ng’s post in ’21SilkRd’.

c“Lui Liu. @luiliupainter” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/luiliupainter/.

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Drumpfian Attacks on U.S. Environmental Rules

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33 rules have been overturned
  • Flood building standards
  • Proposed ban on a potentially harmful pesticide
  • Freeze on new coal leases on public lands
  • Methane reporting requirement
  • Anti-dumping rule for coal companies
  • Decision on Keystone XL pipeline
  • Decision on Dakota Access pipeline
  • Third-party settlement funds
  • Offshore drilling ban in the Atlantic and Arctic
  • Ban on seismic air gun testing in the Atlantic
  • Northern Bering Sea climate resilience plan
  • Royalty regulations for oil, gas and coal
  • Inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews
  • Permit-issuing process for new infrastructure projects
  • Green Climate Fund contributions
  • Endangered species listings
  • Hunting ban on wolves and grizzly bears in Alaska
  • Protections for whales and sea turtles
  • Reusable water bottles rule for national parks
  • National parks climate order
  • Environmental mitigation for federal projects
  • Calculation for “social cost” of carbon
  • Planning rule for public lands
  • Copper filter cake listing as hazardous waste
  • Mine cleanup rule
  • Sewage treatment pollution regulations
  • Ban on use of lead ammunition on federal lands
  • Restrictions on fishing
  • Fracking regulations on public lands
  • Migratory bird protections
  • Department of Interior climate policies
  • Rule regulating industrial polluters
  • Safety standards for “high hazard” trains
24 rollbacks are in progress
  • Clean Power Plan
  • Paris climate agreement
  • Car and truck fuel-efficiency standards
  • Offshore oil and gas leasing
  • Status of 10 national monuments
  • Status of 12 marine areas
  • Limits on toxic discharge from power plants
  • Coal ash discharge regulations
  • Emissions standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants
  • Emissions rules for power plant start-up and shutdown
  • Sage grouse habitat protections
  • Regulations on oil and gas drilling in some national parks
  • Oil rig safety regulations
  • Regulations for offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels
  • Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge
  • Hunting method regulations in Alaska
  • Requirement for tracking emissions on federal highways
  • Emissions standards for trailers and glider kits
  • Limits on methane emissions on public lands
  • Permitting process for air-polluting plants
  • Use of birds in subsistence handicrafts
  • Coal dust rule
  • Haze rule for national parks
  • Review process for forest restoration projects
10 rollbacks are in limbo
  • Wetland and tributary protections
  • Methane emission limits at new oil and gas wells
  • Limits on landfill emissions
  • Mercury emission limits for power plants
  • Hazardous chemical facility regulations
  • Groundwater protections for uranium mines
  • Efficiency standards for appliances
  • Efficiency standards for federal buildings
  • Rule helping consumers buy fuel-efficient tires
  • Aircraft emissions standards

As the above list amply illustrates, “[s]ince taking office last year [2016], President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority”.1 

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1“67 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump” NYT (31 Jan 2018). https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/climate/trump-environment-rules-reversed.html.

Jerusalem: The Basic Facts

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The intrepid Pepe Escobar took to Facebook to explain the background concerning the city of Jerusalem in the wake of the Drumpf’s announcement regarding the city and its status in U.S. foreign policy: “JERUSALEM – THE BASIC FACTS: According to international law Jerusalem is NOT the capital of Israel. Few may be aware that Sykes-Picot, a century ago, awarded Jerusalem to . . . RUSSIA. But then Lenin rejected the deal. So the Brits ended up getting Jerusalem under the Class A Mandate of Palestine. We all know what happened afterwards. In 1947, the UN General Assembly came up with an absurd division of Palestine; Jews owned only 6% of Palestinian land at the time, but they were granted enormous tracts of territory. The UN plan was only a PROPOSAL. It was NEVER endorsed by the UN Security Council – which holds executive authority. Palestinians and the whole Arab world vehemently rejected the proposed terms of the partition. The point is already in 1947, and even in terms of the proposal, Jerusalem was NOT recognized as Israel’s capital. In 1967 Israel conquered virtually the whole of Jerusalem and the hinterland. Then almost everything was annexed – which is totally ILLEGAL. The UN Charter, the Geneva conventions, and the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court expressly forbid annexations by military conquest and/or occupation. Israeli leadership would be in serious trouble if they were ever brought to the International Criminal Court. The status of Jerusalem can only be decided in final negotiations – if they ever happen – between Israel and Palestine”.1

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1 Pepe Escobar. “JERUSALEM – THE BASIC FACTS” Facebook (06 Dec 2017). https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377.

Drumpfian Leaks: The Washington Post

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Posting on his Facebook page, on 18 May 2017, the intrepid Pepe Escobar appears to reveal some inside knowledge hidden from view:

THE WAR ON TRUMP

My source “X” is furious:

The major question is who in Trump’s inner circle is the traitor leaking to the Washington Post? The Washington Post is conducting a campaign against Trump led by Trotskyite elements. The key national interest for the US is a rapprochement with Russia to avoid a nuclear war that the Russians are ready for. Trump is also trying to stop the attack on the American wage level by the .1% Trotskyite element on Wall St. who is stealing the nation’s wealth through their cash settlement manipulations, and other acts of pickpocketing. Trump must stick to his guns.”

That’s not far from the credible narrative put together by old school intel ops not totally controlled by the War Party; “The issue is not necessarily what Trump has done or said. It is that Trump cannot trust even his inner circle of advisers. Whoever leaked the information was either in the room or had access to the minutes of the meeting. That means that someone with fairly robust access was willing to risk not just his or her own career but also the effectiveness of U.S.-Russia moves against the Islamic State, as well as U.S. credibility in the world and with allies that share intelligence. It makes Trump look bad, it makes the United States look worse, and it damages U.S. credibility for as long as the Trump administration is in power”.1

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As “X” says, “The issue is not necessarily what Trump has done or said”, but rather as expressed by the well-known conservative political and cultural commentator David Brooks now more than a month ago, “Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance”, elaborating in the next instance that “Trump’s ignorance is not just an absence; it is a rich, intricate and entirely separate universe of negative information, a sort of fertile intellectual antimatter with its own gravitational pull”.2 Brooks really explains the Drumpf in living colours: the “normal incompetent person flails and stammers and is embarrassed about it. But the true genius at incompetence like our president flails and founders and is too incompetent to recognize his own incompetence. He mistakes his catastrophes for successes and so accelerates his pace toward oblivion. Those who ignore history are condemned to retweet it”.3

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But these insights should not surprise us . . . Tony Schwartz, the actual author of the Art of the Deal, has been warning people ever since the Drumpf decided to run for president.4 And, the investigative journalist David Cay Johnston has been doing the same for years now, as he knows the man that is the Drumpf up close.5

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2 David Brooks, “The Coming Incompetence Crisis” New York Times (07 April 2017). https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/the-coming-incompetence-crisis.html.

3 David Brooks, “The Coming Incompetence Crisis”.

4 “Tony Schwartz: The Truth About Trump” The Erimtan Angle. (s.d.). http://apob.tumblr.com/post/160224262702/tony-schwartz-the-truth-about-trump.

5‘ ‘David Cay Johnston: “The Making of Donald Trump” The Erimtan Angle. (s.d.). http://apob.tumblr.com/post/160129875497/david-cay-johnston-the-making-of-donald-trump.

The Drumpf, the Prez and Fethullah: A Shady Game of Dubious Connections

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The quite renowned periodical Newsweek has now published an interesting piece predicting how business interests and concomitant profits appear set to dominate U.S. foreign (as well as domestic) policy under the aegis of Donald J. Trump . . . the not-so surprise winner of the recent U.S. presidential elections. The journalist Kurt Eichenwald namely posits that “Donald Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he is already making decisions and issuing statements to world leaders that radically depart from American foreign policy, all to the benefit of his family’s corporate empire”.[2]  Eichenwald details how Trump’s business deals with the Philippines and Taiwan could very well compromise U.S. foreign policy, but most ominous seems his assertion that the “conflicts between the commercial interests of the Trump family and U.S. foreign policy extend beyond the many financial benefits for the next president and his children. Already, there is a situation in which the president of the United States could be blackmailed by a foreign power through pressure related to his family’s business entanglements”.[3]  Specifically, Eichenwald is here thinking about Turkey . . . and Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez) and his Justice and Develpoment Party (or AKP).

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Eichenwald explains in the following manner: in “2008, the Trump Organization struck a multimillion-dollar branding deal with the Dogan Group, a large corporation named after its influential family, for a two-tower complex in Istanbul. In 2012, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over the opening ceremonies and met with Trump. But in June of this year, Erdogan called for the Trump name to be removed from the complex because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric; the Turkish president also said presiding over the dedication had been a terrible mistake. Erdogan later told associates he intended to impede America’s use of a critical Air Force base in Turkey should Trump win the presidency, a Middle Eastern financier with contacts inside the Turkish government told Newsweek. The financier spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing relations with his official contacts. In July, members of the Turkish military attempted a coup. Erdogan crushed the plotters, and his government has arrested more than 36,000 suspected participants and shut down 17 media outlets. The primary culprit, Erdogan declared almost immediately, was Fethullah Gülen, a 77-year-old Muslim spiritual leader who has lived in Pennsylvania’s Poconos region for many years. Erdogan demanded that the Obama administration extradite Gülen to face charges related to the coup”.[4]  But during his phone call, the Drumpf made the tactical error or heaping praise on Aydın Doğan’s son-in-law, Mehmet Ali Yalcındağ.

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Eichenwald goes on to say that “[a]ccording to [a] Middle Eastern financier with contacts in the Erdogan administration, Trump’s casual praise of a member of the Dogan family prompted Erdogan to believe this relationship might give him leverage over the president-elect. In the past, Erdogan has placed enormous pressure on the Dogan Group, which owns media operations that have been critical of him, by imposing a $2.5 billion tax fine and calling for supporters to boycott its newspapers and television stations. Then, just weeks after hearing Trump’s kind words about his Dogan business partner, Erdogan lashed out at the Turkish company again. On December 1, authorities detained Barbaros [Muratoğlu], a 28-year veteran of Dogan who was the company’s representative to Ankara. His alleged crime? Maintaining links to the movement led by Gülen, thus connecting the Dogan executive to the attempted coup. In response, Dogan shares fell 8.6 percent. (The purported evidence against [Muratoğlu]: public accusations from an editor at a newspaper owned by a company that competes with Dogan.) Once again, follow the dominoes as they tip over. Erdogan is frustrated in his efforts to grab Gülen; Trump praises a Turkish executive who works with his business partner there, Dogan. A few weeks later, a senior Dogan executive is detained on threadbare allegations. If Erdogan’s government puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from the tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off. That means Erdogan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gülen extradited. The financier with contacts in the Turkish government explained the dynamic to Newsweek: “Erdogan has something he believes Trump wants, and Trump has someone Erdogan desperately wants.” . . . With U.S. security and foreign policy already jeopardized by the president-elect’s conflicts, a few horrifying instances of potential corruption and abuse of power seem quaint by comparison”.[5]

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[2] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest” Newsweek (13 Dec 2016). http://europe.newsweek.com/donald-trump-foreign-business-deals-jeopardize-us-531140?rm=eu.

[3] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest”.

[4] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest”.

[5] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest”.

Caliphal Co-Founder: Hillary Rodham Clinton

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 Some time ago, the Drumpf (aka Donald J. Trump) shocked the world by saying: “No, I meant [Obama]’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton”.[1] In spite of his poor grasp of the English language, Drumpf was clearly accusing his Democratic rival of having been behind the Caliph’s sudden rise to infamy on the world stage. And then, the exiled Julian Assange dropped another time bomb: “Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that Wikileaks have obtained information that, when released soon, will guarantee a Hillary Clinton indictment”.[2] On Tuesday, 11 October 2016, then, “Wikileaks released what is, by far, the most devastating leak of the entire campaign. This makes Trump’s dirty talk video looks like an episode of Barney and Friends”.[3]

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In order to make these revelations more readily intelligible, I would now like to quote the above-reproduced e-mail message: “*From*: John Podesta [mailto:john.podesta@gmail.com]” “*To*: H” [aka “H” <hrod17@clintonemail.com> aka Hillary Rodham Clinton], stating that “[a]rmed with proper equipment, and working with U.S. advisors, the >> Peshmerga can attack the ISIL with a coordinated assault supported from the >> air. This effort will come as a surprise to the ISIL, whose leaders >> believe we will always stop with targeted bombing, and weaken them both in >> Iraq and inside of Syria. At the same time we should return to plans to >> provide the FSA, or some group of moderate forces, with equipment that will >> allow them to deal with a weakened ISIL, and stepped up operations against >> the Syrian regime. This entire effort should be done with a low profile, >> avoiding the massive traditional military operations that are at best >> temporary solutions. While this military/para-military operation is moving >> forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence >> assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, >> which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region. This effort will be enhanced by >> the stepped up commitment in the KRG. The Qataris and Saudis will be put >> in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to >> dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure. By >> the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve >> to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where >> insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq”.[4]

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The U.S. is thus supporting the Peshmerga, the FSA or “or some group of moderate forces” as well as cooperating with the “governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia”, “which are [in turn] providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region” . . . While these sentences might come as a surprise to some, those in the know have known this all along . . . Still, the above-quoted e-mail missive shows the complicity of the Obama White House in full living colour . . . After all, Mister Podesta is at present the “Chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. [who] previously served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and Counselor to President Barack Obama”.[5]

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[1] Tal Kopan,” Donald Trump: I meant that Obama founded ISIS, literally” CNN Politics (12 August 2016). http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/11/politics/donald-trump-hugh-hewitt-obama-founder-isis/.

[2] “Julian Assange: My Next Leak Will Ensure Hillary’s Arrest” Anonymous (s.d.). http://www.anonews.co/hillary-assange/.

[3] “IT’S OVER: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked & It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined…” Friends of Syria (11 Oct 2016). https://friendsofsyria.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/its-over-hillarys-isis-email-just-leaked-its-worse-than-anyone-could-have-imagined/.

[4] “Congrats!” WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/3774.

[5] “John Podesta” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Podesta.

Chomsky on Democracy Now!

 

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‘In this part of the programme, the world-renowned dissident Noam Chomsky, talks about the conflict in Syria, the rise of ISIS, Saudi Arabia, the political crisis in Brazil, the passing of the pioneering lawyer Michael Ratner, the U.S. relationship with Cuba, Obama’s visit to Hiroshima and today’s Republican Party. “If we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects,” Chomsky says, “but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally.” Published on May 17, 2016’.

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