MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘UK’

“Significant Proportion Of Brits” Say They Have Enjoyed Lockdown, New Poll Finds | ZeroHedge

Posted by M. C. on April 13, 2021

However, pro-lockdown sentiment is also undeniably driven by the fact that the government has covered 80% of people’s wages via a furlough scheme that has given many endless hours of free leisure time.

Aldous Huxley’s quote on how people would be trained to love their servitude seems particularly apt.

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude,” wrote Huxley.

“The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of a democracy, but would basically be a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not even dream of escaping. It would essentially be a system of slavery where, through consumption and entertainment, the slaves would love their servitudes,” he also warned.

https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/significant-proportion-brits-say-they-have-enjoyed-lockdown-new-poll-finds

Tyler Durden's Photoby Tyler Durden

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A new poll by the Sunday Times finds that a “significant proportion of Brits” say they have enjoyed lockdown, with younger people more likely to say they liked COVID-19 restrictions.

They survey gave respondents a range of answers to measure their like or dislike for lockdown. Over 16 per cent in total said they liked or strongly liked lockdown.

The figures are even more alarming when it comes to young people. 20 per cent of 18-24 year olds said they liked or strongly liked the lockdown, while 22 per cent of 25-34 year olds said the same.

A small but significant proportion of the population have enjoyed lockdown, according to a survey. Over 16% said on balance they’ve liked lockdown pic.twitter.com/ZKruzPVl62 — The Sunday Times (@thesundaytimes) April 11, 2021

An online poll even found that a majority of respondents say they enjoyed lockdown.

pic.twitter.com/Egap4a3xnU — Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) April 11, 2021

A separate opinion poll conducted last month by YouGov found that over half of Brits said they would miss “many” or “some” aspects of the lockdown.

Public opinion surveys also routinely find vehement support for the lockdown in general, with large numbers believing that it hasn’t been strict enough.

The figures are obviously deeply concerning in that they illustrate how compliant people have become in the face of the most authoritarian restrictions on freedom since World War 2.

However, pro-lockdown sentiment is also undeniably driven by the fact that the government has covered 80% of people’s wages via a furlough scheme that has given many endless hours of free leisure time.

Aldous Huxley’s quote on how people would be trained to love their servitude seems particularly apt.

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude,” wrote Huxley.

“The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of a democracy, but would basically be a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not even dream of escaping. It would essentially be a system of slavery where, through consumption and entertainment, the slaves would love their servitudes,” he also warned.

The UK is only destined to exit lockdown on June 21, when all restrictions are supposed to be lifted, although given that the government has shifted the goalposts so many times, there is widespread skepticism about whether or not this target will be met.

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Majority Of Brits Say They Will “Miss” Some Or Many Aspects Of Lockdown | ZeroHedge

Posted by M. C. on March 5, 2021

Previous polls have routinely showed majority or plurality support for lockdown, with little concern for what innumerable observers have called the biggest imposition on civil liberties in British history.

One aspect that many will “miss” about lockdown is undoubtedly getting paid for doing nothing.

https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/majority-brits-say-they-will-miss-some-or-many-aspects-lockdown

Tyler Durden's Photoby Tyler DurdenFriday, Mar 05, 2021 – 3:30

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A new opinion poll in the UK finds that over half of Brits say they will miss either “some” or “many” aspects of lockdown despite the country now having been under some form of restrictions for nearly a year.

Yes, really.

The YouGov survey asked participants, “Do you think you will or will not miss any aspects of lockdown when it is over?”

9 per cent of respondents said they would miss “many” aspects of lockdown while 46 per cent said they would miss “some” aspects of lockdown – a combined total of 55 per cent.

Over half of Britons (55%) say they will miss aspects of lockdown when it is over https://t.co/bRZRzvANHf pic.twitter.com/cD1xP39MQs — YouGov (@YouGov) March 2, 2021

Just 39 per cent of respondents said they won’t miss any aspects of lockdown.

Previous polls have routinely showed majority or plurality support for lockdown, with little concern for what innumerable observers have called the biggest imposition on civil liberties in British history.

One aspect that many will “miss” about lockdown is undoubtedly getting paid for doing nothing.

Under the government’s furlough scheme, those who can’t work from home have had 80 per cent of their wages covered by the state for almost a year, with that program to be extended until September despite the government saying all restrictions will be lifted by the end of June.

The prospect of having to work for their money will become a reality for some once again soon, although not for all given that the UK’s economy contracted the most in 300 years as a result of the lockdown, leading to 726,000 job losses.

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Twitter’s discrediting of leaked docs that show UK’s covert activities against Russia is a shocking case of media manipulation — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on February 25, 2021

Therefore, what might be described as ‘public interest journalism’, which involves the leaking of confidential documents, is only valid if it compliments one side of the argument as opposed to the other. Deception, censorship and state-led misinformation campaigns are never to be queried if the UK or the US or behind them, while the distinction between ‘criminal’ and ‘whistleblower’ is upheld completely according to preference.

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/516459-twitter-discrediting-leaked-docs/

Tom Fowdy

Tom Fowdy

is a British writer and analyst of politics and international relations with a primary focus on East Asia.

On some platforms, whistleblowing is only considered an acceptable form of journalism when it exposes enemies of the West. Twitter’s labelling of a Grayzone story that reflected badly on Britain shows the double standards at play.

Earlier this week, journalist Max Blumenthal published a series of leaked documents from the British Foreign Office on his news website the Grayzone, revealing that the BBC and the Reuters Foundation had participated in a covert programme targeting Russia and its neighbours, seeking to push political change within the country. 

Former Labour MP Chris Williamson commented on the findings, noting, “These revelations show that when MPs were railing about Russia, British agents were using the BBC and Reuters to deploy precisely the same tactics that politicians and media commentators were accusing Russia of using.”

For those familiar with the BBC and its history as an extension for British foreign policy goals, the leaks are not a surprise. However, that does not mean the news was met with a warm welcome. 

Shunned by the mainstream media, the Grayzone report was subsequently targeted by Twitter, with each link being tagged with a warning stating: “These materials may have been obtained through hacking.” 

RT

The warning led to an information page stating: “The use of hacks and hacking to exfiltrate information from private computer systems can be used to manipulate the public conversation.”

Although the warning was not carried on some subsequent retweets, at the time of publication it was still present on Grayzone’s original tweet.

Twitter’s accusation is a classic case of it jumping to conclusions, as there is nothing at all to suggest the leaks were a product of hacking. However, this attitude is a direct manifestation of the enormous double standards at play in response to this kind of journalism. 

Whistleblowing and leaks which reveal secrets from enemy states constitute a form of journalism and reporting which deserves to be praised. But to many governments in the West, especially those in the United States and the United Kingdom, leaking is considered out of bounds when they are on the receiving end. It is as if the standards they preach to other countries – in particular, transparency and freedom of information – suddenly don’t count.

In exploring this phenomenon, the cases of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are good places to start. If these men were Chinese, Russian or Iranian, they would be widely celebrated and lauded by the mainstream media as heroes and martyrs who have been subjected to state oppression for simply daring to reveal the truth, as was the case with doctor Li Wenliang and ‘citizen journalist’ Zhang Zhan in Wuhan. 

Yet because Assange and Snowden are Western, and in turn directly challenged the US-led security establishment with their leaks on surveillance and various atrocities, they are treated differently, as criminals and fugitives. The mainstream media minimize the coverage accordingly, and make sure their cause or work cannot gain public sympathy. State action against them is not given scrutiny.

In the simplest terms, we see a scenario where whistleblowing against the US and its allies is bad, but whistleblowing against designated enemies is good. And so, Twitter is following suit with this logic in its decision to now target articles by the Grayzone as apparent ‘hacking’. 

It perfectly illustrates this very binary mode of thought that those who leak documents against the British government are not fuelled by a desire to advocate truth or transparency, but malicious motivations to spread misinformation and influence public opinion. 

Is Twitter saying that it is best the public don’t know how the BBC is essentially being weaponized as a front for British foreign policy? That the notion of public interest essentially does not matter if a given revelation has political ramifications that might be considered undesirable for the West? Or that other journalism is not designed to influence views on a particular subject? So, some secrets are better kept? 

Twitter itself is becoming an increasingly unreliable platform on this front. Donald Trump’s presidency has changed the game, from beginning to end. The enormous controversy of the so-called ‘Russiagate scandal’ and then the Capitol riot in January proved to be two enormous turning points which have tipped the platform towards growing regulation and outright censorship. 

This would be understandable, if it were not so one-sided. The site’s proliferation of ‘state affiliated media’ labels – which unfairly target certain countries, and not others – as well as its warning labels, are all directly consolidating a status quo advocated by Western powers that only they possess a ‘valid’ notion of truth. In turn, everyone who seeks to criticize their narratives is simply promoting falsehoods and is fuelled by bad intent. 

Therefore, what might be described as ‘public interest journalism’, which involves the leaking of confidential documents, is only valid if it compliments one side of the argument as opposed to the other. Deception, censorship and state-led misinformation campaigns are never to be queried if the UK or the US or behind them, while the distinction between ‘criminal’ and ‘whistleblower’ is upheld completely according to preference. 

These documents were a massive discovery. If China had been caught doing the same thing it would be front-page news, but instead we have Twitter trying to bury the truth. The Grayzone findings deserve to be shared as widely as possible.

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Let’s Be Absolutely Clear What’s At Stake In The Assange Case – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on January 4, 2021

Are we going to allow the most powerful government on the planet to set a legal precedent which allows it to obstruct truth around the entire world? Or are we going to oppose this tooth and claw?

Are we going to allow power to remain corrupt and unaccountable? Or are we going to insist on our right to know what’s going on?

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2021/01/02/lets-be-absolutely-clear-whats-at-stake-in-the-assange-case/

author: Caitlin Johnstone

When it comes to human behavior, things only change for the better when there is a lucid and unobstructed perception of what’s going on.

Self-destructive behavior patterns only go away when there’s a lucid and unobstructed perception of the previously unconscious psychological dynamics which were driving them.

Victims of abuse only end their abusive relationships when they obtain a lucid and unobstructed perception of the abusive dynamics as they truly are.

Toxic social dynamics like racism, sexism and homophobia only begin moving toward health when society collectively begins gaining a lucid and unobstructed understanding of how disordered and damaging those dynamics really are.

It only becomes unacceptable to have a totalitarian monarch who tortures and executes people without trial, murders anyone who speaks ill of him, and rules by divine right when society begins collectively gaining a lucid and unobstructed awareness of how ridiculous, unjust and unacceptable such models of government are.

Whether you’re talking about individuals or humanity in its entirety, the story of human progress has always been a story of moving from blindness to seeing. From unawareness to awareness. From the lights in the room being off to the lights being switched on.

There is no progress without clear seeing. We cannot move in the direction of health and harmony if we cannot lucidly perceive the ways in which we are still sick and dysfunctional. We can’t move forward if we’re unaware of the specific ways in which we are stuck in place.

Most of us, on some level, want things in our world to change for the better. Some few others want things to stay the same, because the status quo happens to be treating them quite well thank you very much. The struggle between the deep desire of the many for healthy change and the corrupt desire of the few to maintain the status quo is the struggle between turning the lights on and keeping them off. Between wanting to become aware of the various ways we are stuck so that we can move forward, and wanting the light of awareness as far away from our stuck points as possible.

The struggle for our species, which is really the struggle for our very survival, is therefore between the many who desire truth and the few who desire confusion. We’ve got numbers and truth on our side, but they have power, wealth, and a remarkable knack for psychological manipulation.

We see this struggle playing out in many ways in our world right now. Between propaganda and those trying to learn and share the truth. Between the push for internet censorship and the fight against it. Between government secrecy and freedom of information. Between the campaign to imprison WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes, and the campaign to free him.

On Monday January 4th a UK judge will be ruling on whether or not to allow the process of Assange’s extradition to the United States to move forward. It’s important for opponents of this extradition to be aware that the fight will not end at this time; there’s still a gruelling appeals process to go through which could take 18 to 24 months or longer in the likely event that the incredibly biased judge overseeing the case rules against Assange.

So as we prepare for the next stage in this fight, it’s important for us to be perfectly clear what’s at stake here.

It is absolutely true that this case will have far-reaching implications for press freedoms around the world. The imperial narrative managers have been toiling for years to frame the persecution of Julian Assange as something other than what it is, but in reality this case is about whether the most powerful government in the world is allowed to extradite journalists anywhere on earth who expose its malfeasance. Whether or not the United States should be allowed to imprison journalists for exposing its war crimes.

If the US succeeds in normalizing the legality of extraditing any journalist anywhere in the world who exposes its wrongdoing, there will be a worldwide cooling effect on national security journalism which will greatly impede humanity’s ability to form a lucid and unobstructed understanding of what’s going on in the world. The largest power structure on earth will have succeeded in not just turning the lights off in the room, but in uninstalling the light switch.

There is no legal case in the world right now where the struggle for lucid and unobstructed seeing has so much on the line. For this reason, this isn’t just about journalism: we really are collectively deciding the fate of our species with our response to the prospect of Assange’s extradition.

Are we going to allow the most powerful government on the planet to set a legal precedent which allows it to obstruct truth around the entire world? Or are we going to oppose this tooth and claw?

Are we going to allow power to remain corrupt and unaccountable? Or are we going to insist on our right to know what’s going on?

Are we going to let them keep the lights off? Or are we going to turn them on?

Are we going to let the bastards lock us into an omnicidal, ecocidal status quo while they drive us at a rapidly accelerating pace toward extinction and dystopia? Or are we going to move toward the kind of lucid and unobstructed perception of our situation which will allow us to progress into a healthy world?

These are the questions that we are in the process of answering together. I hope we can get everyone to very seriously consider what they want their own answer to be.

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Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Poems For Rebels or my old bookWoke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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WATCH: Is the UK heading toward medical martial law? – OffGuardian

Posted by M. C. on October 5, 2020

He specifically mentions “managing the narrative”, which is no surprise considering his role as a former Army officer, a current reserves officer, and his known affiliation with the 77th Brigade. For those who don’t know: The 77th is the British army’s team of “facebook warriors”. An information warfare unit whose job is to “counter misinformation”, “manage the narrative” and generally corral and control the internet conversation.

https://off-guardian.org/2020/10/02/watch-is-the-uk-heading-toward-medical-martial-law/

WATCH: Is the UK heading toward medical martial law? We are hearing frequent calls for the UK’s coronavirus “pandemic” response to become a military operation

On the 28th September Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP for Bournemouth East, stood up in Parliament and suggested that the British Army and the Ministry of Defense be in charge of distributing and administering “millions of doses” of the Sars-Cov-2 vaccines, as well as issuing “vaccination certificates” which will “allow travel”.

And that’s just the highlights, there’s a lot more vaguely sinister language, camouflaged in his rather drab monotone voice. (You can watch the whole speech here, go to 20:24).

This is a concerning development, one very much worth keeping an eye on. The BBC don’t think so, of course, because the call for what would easily amount to medical martial law didn’t even make it into their “Today in Parliament” programme.

This is not new behaviour for Ellwood. He has always been a consistent voice for use of the military in response to the “pandemic”. On the 18th of September he requested the Prime Minister make “greater use of our fine armed forces”.

He specifically mentions “managing the narrative”, which is no surprise considering his role as a former Army officer, a current reserves officer, and his known affiliation with the 77th Brigade. For those who don’t know: The 77th is the British army’s team of “facebook warriors”. An information warfare unit whose job is to “counter misinformation”, “manage the narrative” and generally corral and control the internet conversation.

That’s not a “conspiracy theory”, their existence is readily acknowledged by both the government and the mainstream media. Considering they’re currently employed “countering covid misinformation“, they will likely be in the comments of this post (Hi guys!).

Other countries around the world have already moved on to this “war footing”, and the UK is likely not far behind.

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Crossing the Rubicon: The UK Slips into a Repressive State – OffGuardian

Posted by M. C. on August 3, 2020

I’m forced now to doubt that we, the British people value our freedom as much as we profess to. We take to the streets in droves to embrace new forms of repression, such as an anarchistic movement that seeks to rewrite history and dismantle our police forces, or an anti-human death cult that seeks to suppress all human activity by frightening us all into believing we are destroying the Earth by existing.

https://off-guardian.org/2020/07/31/crossing-the-rubicon-the-uk-slips-into-a-repressive-state/

Mark Chapman

Julius Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon River in 49 BC in defiance of Roman law placed him and his army on a direct collision course with Rome, leading to the Civil War which established him as Roman dictator. It is a well-established metaphor for a point at which there is no going back and at which things will never be the same.

I predicted a few weeks ago that the UK Government would in the near future try to force everyone to wear facemasks in public. Leave aside the plethora of information that makes it clear face masks are of practically zero benefit in everyday circumstances, and may in fact be dangerous, the forced wearing of facemasks is a transgression so fundamental and of such significance that it is difficult to adequately express.

It implicitly hands your body over to state control, and renders one of your most basic existential freedoms subject to state interference. For the first time, the right to exercise a choice of whether you should inhibit your respiratory faculties and hide your face in public is taken out of your hands. If you doubt the significance of this, try to remember the public outcry that followed a debate regarding banning the wearing of burkhas and hijabs in the face of Islamic terrorism, and the connotations this had for civil liberties at the time.

Facemask wearing is the visible hallmark of Asian states perceived in the West as repressive and authoritarian. It is a badge of serfdom, akin to the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. There is no greater invasion of your person possible short of tattooing you with a number.

This astonishing about-turn in policy has not happened overnight or without preparation. It has been preceded by a cleverly-orchestrated media campaign which seeks to bizarrely turn established professional and scientific research on its head, making virologists, infection-control bodies and academics who have published papers for the medical profession into liars and charlatans.

This campaign has included editorials and blogs which talk in disapproving and accusatory tones of “mask-shirkers” and “mask-deniers” allegedly “refusing” to wear face masks. Leave aside the obvious fact that refusal cannot take place without a demand: in other words someone has to give you an instruction to which you reply, “No, thanks.”

Absent such a demand, you are not refusing anything, merely making a choice. And until now there has been no such demand. But those making this choice are now psychopaths and enemies of humanity without a shred of integrity, respect or regard for their fellow human beings. When I returned from Asia early this year the advice was clear: face masks do not protect you from infection and it is not advised that you wear them.

What is more, face mask wearing was actively discouraged because of limited supplies required for hospital environments, where infection control is king and every precaution makes sense. Above all the only situation in which it is appropriate to wear a facemask in public is if you are unwell and have a cough, in which case why not stay at home?

But this piece of simple logic has been covered by the mask-advocates whose logic runs like this: “You may have coronavirus without knowing it, and may infect others with your breath even at unlimited distances so you need to wear a mask.” This covers all bases despite the evidence for this being at best negligible and at worst manipulated and dishonest.

It is part of the greater logic that renders every societal value worthless unless it contributes to the impossible task of making sure that not one single individual anywhere, ever, is infected with Covid-19. None of this means I think we should do nothing about this pandemic. But there is now a growing awareness that the cure proposed is not indefinitely sustainable and may in fact be worse than the disease.

The virtue-signalling of face-mask advocates is easily refuted. Facemasks have been available for decades for use in industry and ideas generally considered good are taken up by the public. Nobody needed the government to tell them to go out and buy a car or a television set.

So if you’re so convinced face masks are a good idea why has it taken the State to tell you before you came to this Eureka moment?

And for how many years or decades have you been going around disrespectfully infecting your fellow human beings by going out without a mask when you had a cold or the flu?

However, apparently all the established research is now wrong and face mask wearing is essential. It is a vast game of “Simon Says,” in which we only do anything when Simon says. And it won’t stop there. Expect newspapers like the Guardian to run sanctimonious editorials demanding that face-mask wearing be extended to pubs and restaurants, and eventually to every departure from your home.

Following this such a move will become policy: indeed, the British public will do what they are already doing, gleefully embracing this perverse doctrine, boasting of buying colourful face masks for their children, and showering anyone who has a different point of view with disapproval.

I’m forced now to doubt that we, the British people value our freedom as much as we profess to. We take to the streets in droves to embrace new forms of repression, such as an anarchistic movement that seeks to rewrite history and dismantle our police forces, or an anti-human death cult that seeks to suppress all human activity by frightening us all into believing we are destroying the Earth by existing.

But in the face of mounting attacks on our liberty and our freedom, we are silent. We have had our liberty taken away from us. Our movements are monitored. Our discussions are censored via social media. We are no longer free even to make fundamental choices about our bodies. A public that will silently accept these things has learned nothing from history, will accept anything and deserves its fate if that is a dystopian world-state.

We are no longer entitled to lecture other nations about being repressive states. Their representatives, quite rightly in my view would laugh in our faces. There is a growing fear in the minds of many of us that Western lockdowns may be permanent. The spectres of identity cards, martial law and forced vaccination now hover over us.

Dismissing this as “conspiracy theory” and accusing those who feel this way of an inhuman disregard for life is the rhetoric of fascism, a force that always thrives in the face of a perceived threat. I believe forced face-mask wearing in British streets is a brutal act that crosses the Rubicon, and finally signifies our descent into a de facto repressive state.

Mark Chapman is an artist and educator based in the UK. His work is often concerned with questioning established narratives where evidence is contrary to these. You can read more of his work at his blog Humanism

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State Dept-funded Transparency International goes silent on jailed transparency activist Julian Assange | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on July 27, 2020

Transparency International has been vocal in defending jailed opposition activists in states like Zimbabwe, Russia, and Venezuela. But when it comes to Assange – far-and-away the world’s most prominent imprisoned transparency activist – the NGO has not said a word since a week after his arrest in April 2019. 

Transparency International happens to be funded by the UK government which is currently jailing Assange, and by the US State Department, which is headed by Mike Pompeo – the former CIA director who presided over a black operations campaign to destroy Wikileaks.

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/07/21/state-dept-transparency-international-silent-jailed-julian-assange/

By Patrick Maynard

BERLIN, GERMANY – On a cool July day, the Berlin neighborhood where Transparency International’s global headquarters is situated feels a thousand miles away from London’s Belmarsh Prison. But it is not just the pleasant setting a few blocks from the Spree River that makes the influential NGO seem so detached from the maximum security penitentiary’s most famous inmate, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Transparency International has been vocal in defending jailed opposition activists in states like Zimbabwe, Russia, and Venezuela. But when it comes to Assange – far-and-away the world’s most prominent imprisoned transparency activist – the NGO has not said a word since a week after his arrest in April 2019.

When Transparency International did mention Assange’s arrest, it came in the form of a mealy-mouthed blog post that referred to the Wikileaks founder as “polarizing” and failed to condemn his persecution.

Transparency International happens to be funded by the UK government which is currently jailing Assange, and by the US State Department, which is headed by Mike Pompeo – the former CIA director who presided over a black operations campaign to destroy Wikileaks.

Much has changed since Transparency International last issued a statement about Assange. A UN special rapporteur found evidence that Assange may have been tortured. The judge on the case was switched after significant conflicts of interest were discovered.

Assange’s bail-jumping penalty of 50 weeks was also exhausted in April, meaning that for many weeks, the British have been holding him purely as a favor for their American allies, without Assange being formally charged with a British crime. And, perhaps most relevant to the case, 36 members of the European Parliament have recently called for Assange to be released from Belmarsh on press freedom and humanitarian grounds.

Unlike Transparency International, several other large NGOs have been vocal about the case within the last year. Those groups include Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Courage Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. A total of 40 rights groups recently signed an open letter urging Assange’s release.

Ignoring the world’s most prominent jailed transparency activist

Julian Assange first became well-known when Wikileaks published a series of document troves that embarrassed the United States and its allies. Several stashes of military information exposed possible war crimes on the part of U.S. soldiers, while a collection of State Department cables from 1966 through 2010 showed American diplomatic officials being manipulated to act on behalf of U.S. companies abroad.

Shortly after those releases, Assange was investigated over a possible sexual assault in Sweden. Assange and his team worried that the investigation might be a pretext to detain and extradite him into U.S. hands, so they offered to have him testify via video link from Britain. Swedish authorities refused. Assange jumped his British bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he lived for nearly seven years. The sexual assault investigation was later dropped.

Following Assange’s arrest in April 2019, a federal grand jury in the U.S. returned an 18-count superseding indictment charging the publisher with computer intrusion and with breaking the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917.

A key part of the U.S. government’s case is the idea that, by publishing leaked information, Wikileaks damaged the safety abroad of people friendly to the American cause. Asked by The Grayzone by email if the Justice Department would be willing to name a single person who had been killed or injured as a result of Wikileaks material, the DOJ declined to comment.

US State Department, UK government support – and corporate influence peddling

There was an initial groundswell of solidarity from abroad after Assange’s arrest, with publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post commenting on how the Espionage Act charges threatened press freedom. A few major international human rights NGOs spoke out as well.

That support has been uneven over the last 15 months or so, however. After the initial burst of coverage, the hearings faded into the background, with few mainstream American or British media organizations reporting on Judge Emma Arbuthnot’s ties to UK intelligence and defense interests while she presided over pre-extradition hearings.

Asked whether Transparency International had commented on the judge’s seeming conflicts of interest, Transparency spokesman Paul Bell told The Grayzone that the international secretariat “hasn’t made any statements in relation to Lady Emma Arbuthnot.”

The group’s silence over the past year stands in contrast to earlier times when it had been vocal about freedom of speech, and had not been shy about bringing up Assange’s name as a hook for its blog posts on the topic.

Tracking outside influence on Transparency International can be difficult, as it is made up of more than 100 independent chapters around the globe.

But the organization’s USA chapter honored the notoriously war-profiteering oil services giant Bechtel with its  “Corporate Leadership Award” in 2016.

Two years earlier, Transparency USA honored the arms manufacturer Raytheon “for anti-corruption efforts.” Both Bechtel and Raytheon were major donors to the organization at the time.

In 2017, Transparency USA was finally disaccredited for fostering apparent pay-for-play relationships under the guise of anti-corruption efforts. However, Transparency’s Secretariat defended the USA chapter’s honoring of Hillary Clinton with its “Integrity Award” in the face of revelations of influence-peddling by the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Little Sis database, which tracks relationships of organizations by analyzing their donors, board members and leadership, indicates that Transparency has shared adjacencies with organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Infraguard – which the FBI describes as a “partnership between the FBI and the private sector” that is “dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the U.S.”

On its website, Transparency International lists funding from the US Department of State, which is currently headed by the former CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who apparently authorized the spying ring that targeted Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy.

It also receives support from the Department of International Development of the UK government, which is currently prosecuting Assange.

In fact, much of the NGO’s funding comes from EU governments.

Bell, the Transparency spokesman, stated in an email to The Grayzone that his organization’s international board has not received pressure regarding the Assange extradition hearings from U.S. or U.K. entities, including governments.

“There is a principle and a precedent at stake … no matter how you feel about Julian Assange”

Assange has made some powerful enemies over the years. He angered Republicans by exposing inconvenient truths behind the military interventions initiated by George W. Bush, and infuriated Democrats by dumping a cache of embarrassing emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server just before the 2016 election.

Parker Higgins, the advocacy director at Freedom of the Press Foundation, argues that individual feelings about Assange shouldn’t get in the way of a clear-eyed view of the gravity of the extradition case.

“The importance of this case goes far beyond the facts of who Julian Assange is and what he is alleged to have done,” Higgins said in an email to The Grayzone. “There is a principle and a precedent at stake that are important considerations for press freedom, no matter how you feel about Julian Assange himself.”

Higgins asserted that large countries are now attempting to extend their own jurisdiction globally – especially on what he calls “borderless issues” like censorship – and that an Assange extradition would be a deepening of that trend.

China, for example, has recently attempted to assert that non-citizens in foreign countries are subject to its new national security law regarding speech about Hong Kong. That has chilled activism as far away as Canada. In the case of Assange, the United States is attempting to apply its rarely used 1917 Espionage Act to an Australian journalist operating in Europe, activists argue. In doing so, they say, the U.S. government is extending its jurisdiction and setting up a potentially dangerous template for future generations to follow.

Spying, denial of legal access, “torture and neglect”

There are other aspects of the Julian Assange case that trouble many close observers. Assange‘s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said in April that there had been no “direct access” with his client for “more than a month.”

That situation has gotten worse as the COVID-19 outbreak has continued, with a recent hearing featuring Assange literally boxed in inside a glass container, through which it was difficult to hear.

Back when Assange did have regular access to legal counsel – during his time in the Ecuadorian embassy – his interactions with others were secretly recorded by a Spanish contractor with ties to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, as The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal has documented in detail.

In most American court cases, surveillance of attorney-client meetings would result immediately in a mistrial being declared.

Additionally, Assange’s health has been declining. In June, 216 doctors from 33 countries wrote to medical journal the Lancet, protesting what they called “torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange” and stating that, “under the Convention Against Torture, those acting in official capacities can be held complicit and accountable not only for perpetration of torture, but for their silent acquiescence and consent.”

While some reporters have argued that Assange’s extradition would not set a precedent for cases against other journalists, since Assange is accused of helping a source crack a password, Higgins argues that future judges are not necessarily likely to parse that difference.

“There’s no guarantee that the line a journalist draws now is going to be the one that future judges follow,” Higgins stated. “The threat of criminal charges for talking to sources is sure to have a chilling effect.”

Patrick Maynard is a journalist whose work has featured in the Baltimore Sun, Truthout, Vice and The Grayzone.

 

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The UK Is Greenlighting Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Again. That’s a Travesty. – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on July 18, 2020

By propagating the fiction that years of repeated Saudi violations of the laws
of war are “isolated” incidents, the UK is either denying the facts on the ground
or undermining mainstream understanding of the laws governing war. Most likely,
it’s doing both.

Neither the law nor the facts support a conclusion that Saudi war crimes in Yemen are “isolated.”

A jobs program for the connected contributors.

https://original.antiwar.com/Akshaya_Kumar/2020/07/17/the-uk-is-greenlighting-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia-again-thats-a-travesty/

On July 7, the United Kingdom announced that it intends to resume approving weapons sales by British companies to Saudi Arabia. Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is choosing to move forward with these sales despite reams of evidence that once weapons are in the Saudi arsenal, there’s no way to be sure they won’t be used to commit war crimes in Yemen.

The government is moving forward despite eloquent pleas from Yemenis who say that continued sales greenlight continued abuses by the Saudi led coalition. It’s moving forward despite the UK’s own foreign secretary’s recent appeal on behalf of the people of Yemen for “international help to escape tragedy,” recognizing they are living through the world’s worst humanitarian crisis while trying to battle a global pandemic.

Moving forward at this moment ignores the realities on the ground in Yemen and also evidences a willingness to twist the facts and the law. In doing so, the UK is undermining the rules that govern the international order at a time when multilateralism is more important than ever.

After a landmark court ruling, the UK government was forced to pause sales until it could show that it had properly evaluated the risk that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia could be used in laws of war violations. Although UK suppliers have continued to fulfill existing contracts and the government “inadvertently” issued some new licenses, the court ruling undoubtedly had a chilling effect on transfers over the past year. That’s a good thing.

But now, the UK laughably claims it has “developed a revised methodology” that supports further sales based on the specious conclusion that the Saudis’ violations are “isolated” incidents.

Human Rights Watch made a 172-page submission to the UK last year that indicates the exact opposite. Despite their arsenal of top-of-the-line weapons with precision guidance, Saudi-led coalition aircraft keep hitting Yemeni civilians while they’re shopping for groceries, celebrating weddings, riding in school buses, mourning their dead at funerals, and seeking treatment for cholera.

Recently, the UN confirmed that the coalition hit four schools and hospitals in 2019. The International Rescue Committee estimates that more than half of the bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition in May of this year hit civilians or civilian infrastructure. These attacks have almost always been followed by self-investigations that excuse away the crimes.

Neither the law nor the facts support a conclusion that the problems with Saudi Arabia’s conduct are “isolated.”

Human Rights Watch has been campaigning to halt all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2016. The UN has warned that those who continue to supply the coalition with weapons after seeing its abysmal track record risk complicity themselves. To be sure, this is not a problem that will be resolved by cutting off sales from the UK alone.

Saudi Arabia leads the world in arms imports and is responsible for 12 percent of global purchases since 2015. While the UK had paused licensing, French companies transferred $1.6 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2019. Although the U.S. Congress has twice voted to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia, President Trump vetoed those bills allowing arms sales to proceed.

Last year, Trump pressed forward with a massive $8 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE. The US is now considering an additional $478 million transfer of precision guided munitions to the Saudis. Once again, some members of Congress are objecting, but the Trump administration appears poised to move forward anyway.

While Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland all announced that they will stop new weapons exports to the Saudis, they have continued to supply arms, spare parts, and components to the Saudis under existing contracts. In fact, in 2019, Canadian military exports to Saudi Arabia hit an all-time high despite their moratorium.

The Trump administration in particular has made naked economic and geopolitical calculations the basis of its foreign policy. Its continued arms exports to “allies” despite a track record of human rights abuses is not unique to Saudi Arabia. But it’s particularly chilling that Trump was not shy about making an economic argument for sales in the face of the Saudi killing and dismemberment of US resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The timing of the UK move, one day after it launched sanctions on 20 individual Saudis for their role in Khashoggi’s murder, underscores the incoherence of this approach. Governments like the UK shouldn’t need their courts to tie their hands — they should simply stop their sales to the Saudis. Instead of engaging in legal gymnastics to justify weapons sales, they should take a stance that definitively ends their role in fueling war crimes abroad.

By propagating the fiction that years of repeated Saudi violations of the laws of war are “isolated” incidents, the UK is either denying the facts on the ground or undermining mainstream understanding of the laws governing war. Most likely, it’s doing both.

Akshaya Kumar is the crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy In Focus.

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The EU’s Latest Screw-You to the UK Shows a Big Problem with Trade Agreements | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on February 29, 2020

Let me translate that for you: European politicians are concerned
there might be too much freedom in the UK after Brexit is finished.
Brussels fears producers in the UK might use that freedom to produce
goods and services that will be more affordable to European consumers.

Thus, the EU’s negotiators want to force British producers to labor
under all the same entrepreneurship-crushing and innovation-destroying
regulations that Europeans now must endure.

Should they refuse, the EU plans to hike tariffs or employ other trade-blocking sanctions.

A free trade agreement longer than one page is not “free” and is benefiting someone that’s not you.

https://mises.org/wire/eus-latest-screw-you-uk-shows-big-problem-trade-agreements?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=323a87f091-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_12_31_06_15_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-323a87f091-228343965

All too often, discussion over trade deals focuses almost solely on tariffs.

It’s true that tariffs—i.e., taxes—are always a significant barrier to free exchange at all levels, but there are also plenty of ways to block or lessen trade that are not primarily tariff-based. Recent conflicts over the pending negotiations between the UK and the EU are a reminder of this.

For instance, The Guardian reported yesterday “The EU will demand the right to punish Britain if the government fails to shadow the Brussels rule book in the future….The bloc will demand that the British government apply EU state aid rules in their entirety as they evolve.”

Specifically, EU countries—especially France—want to make sure

that Britain must comply with strict “level playing field” provisions to ensure that the UK does not undercut the EU on issues like the environment, state aid and workers’ rights.

Let me translate that for you: European politicians are concerned there might be too much freedom in the UK after Brexit is finished. Brussels fears producers in the UK might use that freedom to produce goods and services that will be more affordable to European consumers.

Thus, the EU’s negotiators want to force British producers to labor under all the same entrepreneurship-crushing and innovation-destroying regulations that Europeans now must endure.

Should they refuse, the EU plans to hike tariffs or employ other trade-blocking sanctions.

The Creation of a Global Trade Bureaucracy

This isn’t to say that the EU is the only state or quasi state guilty of working to limit trade while also claiming to be expanding it.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, the successor to NAFTA) features the use of government regulations to manage trade and limit foreign freedoms that might be used to “undercut” other countries.

As with NAFTA, under the USMCA Mexico can’t export goods to the United States unless those producers are subject to new labor laws demanded by US negotiators. Mexican firms must also adhere to US-approved environmental regulations and to intellectual property laws that extend corporate monopolies (mostly patents) into ever longer time periods.

And, of course, Mexico must conform to “country of origin” rules designed to ensure that other countries aren’t using Mexico as a pass-through for their goods.

What if Mexico doesn’t comply? Well, then tariffs go up, thus illustrating that the agreement was never really about free trade in the first place.

After all, under both the USMCA and the EU agreements, enforcement of all these regulatory provisions requires a whole host of bureaucratic agencies designed to monitor and regulate trade so as to ensure compliance.

When your “free trade” agreement depends heavily on thousands of pages of rules and regulations, then somebody has to check to make sure “40 to 45 percent of automobile parts must be made by workers who earn at least $16 an hour,” or that 75 percent of a manufactured good’s components come from an approved location. There must be inspections, reports, audits—and when necessary—judicial-type proceedings designed to determine guilt and punishment.

We should also expect these requirements, regulations, and mandates to get worse over time. Ever since NAFTA was inked, there have been complaints that the agreement did not impose enough new requirements on the Mexicans to suit the desires of environmentalists and labor union advocates. And, of course, huge corporations are always demanding ever-more-exploitive intellectual property rules. We should not expect those demands to go away with the USMCA.

Meanwhile, Europe isn’t exactly in any danger of liberalizing its regulatory regime. If the past decade is any indication, the next ten years will bring a host of new regulations. Through it all, the EU is now telling us the British will be expected to “keep up” or “harmonize” its own laws with those of the EU. Otherwise, Britain will be accused of abusing the system by providing a means for employers and producers to avoid some regulations but still get access to the EU trading bloc.

Poor Countries Often Get the Worst of It

But at least the UK is already a rich country. In the case of Mexico, as with other developing countries, these nontariff trade barriers “may erode the competitive advantage that developing countries have in terms of labour costs and preferential access.”1

Yes, poor countries can offer cheap labor to bring down costs of producing goods. But when exporting those goods requires jumping a host of regulatory burdens, costs can quickly climb again. Moreover, these regulatory requirements can be stacked on top of each other. Under EU rules, for example, a trading partner in Africa might need to meet “sanitary” requirements around food quality while also meeting labor requirements and quality control mandates on manufactured goods. In many cases, these requirements are difficult to meet because producers in poorer nations lack the expertise and capital to achieve compliance at a level far above what the market itself demands.

For this reason, “tariff liberalization alone has generally proven unsuccessful in providing genuine market access [and] has drawn further attention to non-tariff measures (NTMs) as major determinants in restricting market access.”2

Nor are these “regulatory harmonization” efforts the only sort of nontariff barriers at work. According to this 2017 study,3 these can include domestic subsidies designed to make domestically produced goods more competitive than foreign ones. Other nontariff barriers include straight-up quotas on foreign goods and laws requiring governments procure goods and services only from domestic firms. Given the size of the public sector in many countries—including the US, which heavily employs this type of trade barrier—those kinds of provisions have a sizable impact on international trade.4

Global non-tariff barriers, 2009-2016:

ntb
Source: Erdal Yalcin, Gabriel Felbermayr, Luisa Kinzius, Hidden Protectionism: Non-Tariff Barriers and Implications for International Trade (Munich: Liebniz Institute for Economic Research, 2017), p. 8.​

Of all of these, though, it may be the use of regulatory mandates as a trade barrier that is the most insidious. By requiring trade partners to expand their own regulatory states so as to “harmonize” their legal environments with those of trading partners, trade agreements actually expand the power and jurisdictions of bureaucratic regimes.

Trade Bureaucracy Destroys Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Rich and Poor Countries Alike

Like all trade barriers, this may be a net win for certain interest groups within the country where the state is pressing for greater regulatory mandates. But these measures also cut out much of the benefit of expanded international trade for entrepreneurs and consumers.

For example, imagine a small chain of US restaurants discovers a new much more affordable source of avocados in El Salvador. The restaurant chain then begins to demand more avocados than it could afford to buy before. Farmers in El Salvador start to hire more workers to harvest the avocados and ship them north. The American restaurants then hire more truckers to deliver the avocados and more waiters to serve their customers.

But then it turns out that the El Salvador farmers aren’t paying the workers the wage mandated in the trade agreement between the US and El Salvador. US trade negotiators then demand that the farm owners pay higher wages or submit to a 20 percent tariff. As a result, El Salvador workers are laid off and become once again unemployed. Meanwhile in the US the restaurant chain must scale back its operations and close stores as a result of rising food costs. Had there been real free trade, of course, the workers, the restaurant owners, and the diners would have all been free to produce avocados in a way that everyone could agree on. But then regulators got involved and imposed regulations to make sure Salvadoran workers and farmers weren’t “undercutting” US workers and farmers. The enforcement of these provisions might be a win for certain American farmers and labor unions. But it’s a loss for everyone else.

So much for “free trade.”

Here we see again the dark side of economic integration: what was billed as a lowering of taxes, barriers, and “transaction costs” was in many ways just an expansion of the state’s jurisdiction. We are witnessing something very similar in the Brexit negotiations. The UK is angling for an agreement to facilitate trade, but in the end it may just end up increasing Brussels’s power over British consumers.

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DOJ Drooling Over Likely Assange Extradition | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on February 26, 2020

Let’s make this clear, there has never been any evidence presented in the decade since those cables were released, that anyone was ever harmed. This is a baldfaced canard deployed by Washington from the start and it is now being used to attempt to drag Assange back to the U.S. where he faces 18 federal charges of espionage, including theft and hacking, and for that, up to 175 years in prison.

Because the UK has no constitutional guarantee of a free press and its free speech rights are practically non-existent today, which means his pleas for both won’t buy him a basket of fish and chips from the local pub.

In other words, putting trust in the British system of law is a gamble. The British establishment hated Assange from the beginning too. And why not? Former PM Tony Blair was President George Bush’s poodle, and dragged his country into the war in Iraq against the majority of his countrymen’s wishes. They were right there with us as the lies played out in real time.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/doj-drooling-over-likely-assange-extradition/

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