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   PastimesClown-Free Zone... sorry, no clowns allowed

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To: Terry Maloney who wrote (436106)9/2/2023 10:54:26 PM
From: Broken_Clock
   of 436144
81churces burned in retaliation? Really?

BREAKING: ‘Unmarked graves’ discovery at Manitoba residential school turns out to be hoax — no bodies found, only rocks Despite the findings, the chief warned against a “denialist” narrative.

Aug 19, 2023 2 minute read

Chief Derek Nepinak of the Minegoziibe Anishinabe said the excavation of a Catholic church on the site of a former Manitoba school found "no conclusive evidence of human remains." The lands the church is found on have been referred to as "mass graves" by outlets in the mainstream media.

In a video on social media, Chief Nepinak said that a specialized team of archeologists that work with the police were not able to detect any "evidence of human remains" under the Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church which is the site of a former residential school in Pine Creek.

He said this "should take nothing away from the difficult truths experienced by our families who attended the residential school in Pine Creek."

This comes after the Catholic Church and the area around it have been implicated in several stories about mass grave sites of the Manitoba nations that used to occupy the area. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau more than once made a point to bring attention to the hoax, and was infamously seen kneeling beside the so-called graves with a teddy bear in his hand.

14 anomalies under the basement were reported to be "possible burial sites" under the church building as recently as July. However, upon excavation, nothing was found.

The contractor who detected the 14 anomalies under the basement also claimed that 57 others around the area of the Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church were present.

Chief Nepinak said that his community was going to conduct a search of their own after the Kamloops First Nation had reported it had possibly discovered 215 unmarked graves at the site of its former residential school.

Prior to the excavation, Nepinak suggested dark intentions of the supposed culprits of the now debunked grave site at the church.

“We understand that over time burial sites may be lost to the natural elements,” he explained in an earlier press release. "But to bury remains under a building suggests a dark and sinister intent that cannot be unaddressed as we expose the truth of what happened in our homeland.”

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To: Broken_Clock who wrote (436114)9/3/2023 1:05:40 PM
From: Terry Maloney
   of 436144
Yeah probably, what of it?


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To: Terry Maloney who wrote (436115)9/3/2023 5:42:30 PM
From: Broken_Clock
   of 436144
"mostly non-violent" right comrade?

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From: Bid Buster9/8/2023 1:00:52 AM
1 Recommendation   of 436144
Damn, what a ghost town this is, I miss the old days of you old bastards.

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To: Terry Maloney who wrote (436115)9/8/2023 1:05:05 AM
From: Bid Buster
   of 436144
When was the last time you got hit with a hurricane?
Lee looks nasty and if it rounds the trough to a polar track it may huff and puff and blow your house down you little piggy.

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To: Bid Buster who wrote (436117)9/8/2023 1:15:14 AM
From: S. maltophilia
   of 436144
Just another thread the political sniping ruined. Too bad.

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To: Bid Buster who wrote (436118)9/8/2023 1:20:25 PM
From: Terry Maloney
   of 436144
>> if it rounds the trough to a polar track it may huff and puff and blow your house down <<

Good. Could use some excitement around here.

Meanwhile, this one's for you ... <g>


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From: Broken_Clock9/9/2023 1:51:28 PM
2 Recommendations   of 436144
take that right wing shit outta here...aka fascists at work.

Here's how it started...

Here's how it's going...

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that several Biden administration officials had likely breached the First Amendment by pressuring social media companies to moderate or take down content they deemed problematic.

And here is Exhibit A of that First Amendment-crushing coercion and collusion... which obviously began in the Trump-era under Anthony Fauci. ZeroHedge was banned from Twitter one day after this email.

In an unsigned 75-page opinion, three 5th Circuit judges agreed with the plaintiffs that the administration “ran afoul of the First Amendment” by at times threatening social media platforms with antitrust action or changes to law protecting them from liability.

However, as The Epoch Times' Aldgra Fredly reports, the three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed much of an injunction issued by a Louisiana judge that restricted Democratic President Joe Biden's administration from communicating with social media companies.

The court said that the White House, Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the FBI "likely coerced or significantly encouraged social media platforms to moderate content" in violation of the First Amendment.

"It is true that the officials have an interest in engaging with social media companies, including on issues such as misinformation and election interference," the three-judge panel said in a 74-page ruling ( pdf) on Sept. 8.

"But the government is not permitted to advance these interests to the extent that it engages in viewpoint suppression," they added.

The court found that the officials made "express threats" and "inflammatory accusations" by saying that the platforms were "poisoning the public" and "killing people." The platforms were told they needed to take "greater responsibility and action."

"Then, they followed their statements with threats of 'fundamental reforms' like regulatory changes and increased enforcement actions that would ensure the platforms were 'held accountable'. But, beyond express threats, there was always an unspoken 'or else,'" it added.

The court also said the officials encouraged social media platforms to moderate content by "exercising active, meaningful control over those decisions," particularly concerning the platforms' moderation policies.

According to the ruling, the FBI "regularly met with the platforms, shared 'strategic information,' frequently alerted the social media companies to misinformation spreading on their platforms, and monitored their content moderation policies."

"But, the FBI went beyond that—they urged the platforms to take down content. Turning to the Second Circuit's four-factor test, we find that those requests were coercive," it added.

The judges emphasized that the government cannot supervise a platform's content moderation decisions and cannot impose "legal, regulatory, or economic consequences" if they refuse to comply with a given request.

"Social media platforms' content-moderation decisions must be theirs and theirs alone," the court asserted.

The attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri, along with several social media users, had sued last year, saying Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter engaged in censorship as a result of repeated urging by government officials and threats of heightened regulatory enforcement.

The lawsuit said the censored views included content questioning anti-COVID-19 measures such as masks and vaccine mandates and allegations of election fraud.

But the court excised much of U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty's broad July 4 ruling, saying mere encouragement to take down content doesn't always cross a constitutional line.

"As an initial matter, it is axiomatic that an injunction is overbroad if it enjoins a defendant from engaging in legal conduct. Nine of the preliminary injunction's ten prohibitions risk doing just that. Moreover, many of the provisions are duplicative of each other and thus unnecessary," the ruling said.

The ruling also removed some agencies from the order, namely the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, and the State Department.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said they filed the lawsuit against dozens of officials in the federal government "to halt the biggest violation of the First Amendment in our nation’s history."

"The first brick was laid in the wall of separation between tech and state on July 4. Today’s ruling is yet another brick," he said in a statement.

“Missouri will continue to lead the way in the fight to defend our most fundamental freedoms.”

In a posting on X, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called Friday’s ruling “a major win against censorship.”

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From: Broken_Clock9/25/2023 2:17:57 PM
1 Recommendation   of 436144
In the current Age of mass propaganda, the truth has a personal cost.

The Band of Debunkers

Busting Bad ScientistsStanford’s president and a high-profile physicist are among those taken down by a growing wave of volunteers who expose faulty or fraudulent research papers

By Nidhi Subbaraman

Sept. 24, 2023 5:30 am ET


Explore Audio Center

An award-winning Harvard Business School professor and researcher spent years exploring the reasons people lie and cheat. A trio of behavioral scientists examining a handful of her academic papers concluded her own findings were drawn from falsified data.

It was a routine takedown for the three scientists—Joe Simmons, Leif Nelson and Uri Simonsohn—who have gained academic renown for debunking published studies built on faulty or fraudulent data. They use tips, number crunching and gut instincts to uncover deception. Over the past decade, they have come to their own finding: Numbers don’t lie but people do.

“Once you see the pattern across many different papers, it becomes like a one in quadrillion chance that there’s some benign explanation,” said Simmons, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the trio who report their work on a blog called Data Colada.

Simmons and his two colleagues are among a growing number of scientists in various fields around the world who moonlight as data detectives, sifting through studies published in scholarly journals for evidence of fraud.

At least 5,500 faulty papers were retracted in 2022, compared with 119 in 2002, according to Retraction Watch, a website that keeps a tally. The jump largely reflects the investigative work of the Data Colada scientists and many other academic volunteers, said Dr. Ivan Oransky, the site’s co-founder. Their discoveries have led to embarrassing retractions, upended careers and retaliatory lawsuits.

Neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne stepped down last month as president of Stanford University, following years of criticism about data in his published studies. Posts on PubPeer, a website where scientists dissect published studies, triggered scrutiny by the Stanford Daily. A university investigation followed, and three studies he co-wrote were retracted.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne stepped down as president of Stanford University in August.Photo:Winni Wintermeyer for The Wall Street Journal
Stanford concludedthat although Tessier-Lavigne didn’t personally engage in research misconduct or know about misconduct by others, he “failed to decisively and forthrightly correct mistakes in the scientific record.” Tessier-Lavigne, who remains on the faculty, declined to comment.

The hunt for misleading studies is more than academic. Flawed social-science research can lead to faulty corporate decisions about consumer behavior or misguided government rules and policies. Errant medical research risks harm to patients. Researchers in all fields can waste years and millions of dollars in grants trying to advance what turn out to be fraudulent findings.

The data detectives hope their work will keep science honest, at a time when the public’s faith in science is ebbing. The pressure to publish papers—which can yield jobs, grants, speaking engagements and seats on corporate advisory boards—pushes researchers to chase unique and interesting findings, sometimes at the expense of truth, according to Simmons and others.

“It drives me crazy that slow, good, careful science—if you do that stuff, if you do science that way, it means you publish less,” Simmons said. “Obviously, if you fake your data, you can get anything to work.”

The journal Nature this month alerted readersto questions raised about an article on the discovery of a room-temperature superconductor—a profound and far-reaching scientific finding, if true. Physicistswho examined the work said the data didn’t add up. University of Rochester physicist Ranga Dias, who led the research, didn’t respond to a request for comment but has defended his work. Another paper he co-wrote was retracted in Augustafter an investigation suggested some measurements had been fabricated or falsified. An earlier paperfrom Dias was retracted last year. The university is looking closelyat more of his work.

Experts who examine suspect data in published studies count every retraction or correction of a faulty paper as a victory for scientific integrity and transparency. “If you think about bringing down a wall, you go brick by brick,” said Ben Mol, a physician and researcher at Monash University in Australia. He investigates clinic trials in obstetrics and gynecology. His alerts have prompted journals to retract some 100 papers with investigations ongoing in about 70 others.

Among those looking into other scientists’ work are Elisabeth Bik, a former microbiologist who specializes in spotting manipulated photographs in molecular biology experiments, and Jennifer Byrne, a cancer researcher at the University of Sydneywho helped develop software to screen papers for faulty DNA sequences that would indicate the experiments couldn’t have worked.

“If you take the sleuths out of the equation,” Oransky said, “it’s very difficult to see how most of these retractions would have happened.”

Leif Nelson, left, and Joe Simmons at the University of California, Berkeley.Photo:Ian Bates for The Wall Street Journal
Training by accidentThe origins of Data Colada stretch back to Princeton University in 1999. Simmons and Nelson, fellow grad-school students, played in a cover band called Gibson 5000 and a softball team called the Psychoplasmatics. Nelson and Simonsohn got to know each other in 2007, when they were faculty members in the business school at the University of California, San Diego.

The trio became friends and, in 2011, published their first joint paper, “ False-Positive Psychology.” It included a satirical experiment that used accepted research methods to demonstrate that people who listened to the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” grew younger. They wanted to show how research standards could accommodate absurd findings. “They’re kind of legendary for that,” said Yoel Inbar, a psychologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough. The study became the most cited paper in the journalPsychological Science.

When the trio launched Data Colada in 2013, it became a site to air ideas about the benefits and pitfalls of statistical tools and data analyses. “The whole goal was to get a few readers and to not embarrass ourselves,” Simmons said. Over time, he said, “We have accidentally trained ourselves to see fraud.”

They co-wrote an article published in 2014that coined the now-common academic term “p-hacking,” which describes cherry-picking data or analyses to make insignificant results look statistically credible. Their early work contributed to a shift in researchmethods, including the practice of sharing data so other scientists can try to replicate published work.

“The three of them have done an amazing job of developing new methodologies to interrogate the credibility of research,” said Brian Nosek, executive director of the Center for Open Science, a nonprofit based in Charlottesville, Va., which advocates for reliable research.

Nelson, who teaches at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, is described by his partners as the big-picture guy, able to zoom out of the weeds and see the broad perspective.

Simonsohn is the technical whiz, at ease with opaque statistical techniques. “It is nothing short of a superpower,” Nelson said. Simonsohn was the first to learn how to spot the fingerprints of fraud in data sets.

Working together, Simonsohn said, “feels a lot like having a computer with three core processors working in parallel.”

The men first eyeball the data to see if they make sense in the context of the research. The first study Simonsohnexamined for faulty data on the blog was obvious. Participants were asked to rate an experience on a scale from zero through 10, yet the data set inexplicably had negative numbers.

Uri Simonsohn at the Esade Business School in Barcelona, Spain.Photo:Edu Bayer for The Wall Street Journal
Another red flag is an improbable claim—say a study that said a runner could sprint 100 yards in half a second. Such findings always get a second look. “You immediately know, no way,” said Simonsohn, who teaches at the Esade Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Another telltale sign is perfect data in small data sets. Real-world data is chaotic, random.

Any one of those can trigger an examination of a paper’s underlying data. “Is it just an innocent error? Is it p-hacking?” Simmons said. “We never rush to say fraud.”

To keep up with their blog and other ventures, the trio text almost daily on a group chat, meet on Zoom about once a week and email constantly.

Simonsohn’s phone pinged in August while he was on vacation with his family in the mountains of Spain. Simmons and Nelson broke the news that they were being sued for defamation in a $25 million lawsuit.

“I was completely dumbfounded and terrified,” Nelson said.

‘She’s usually right’Bad data goes undetected in academic journals largely because the publications rely on volunteer experts to ensure the quality of published work, not to detect fraud. Journals don’t have the expertise or personnel to examine underlying data for errors or deliberate manipulation, said Holden Thorp, editor in chief of the Science family of journals.

Thorp said he talks to Bik and other debunkers, noting that universities and other journal editors should do the same. “Nobody loves to hear from her,” he said. “But she’s usually right.”

The data sleuths have pushed journals to pay more attention to correcting the record, he said. Most have hired people to review allegations of bad data. Springer Nature, which publishes Nature and some 3,000 other journals, has a team of 20 research staffers, said Chris Graf, the company’s research integrity director, twice as many as when he took over in 2021.

Retraction Watch, which with research organization Crossref keeps a log of some 50,000 papers discredited over the past century, estimated that, as of 2022, about eight papers have been retracted for every 10,000 published studies.

Bik and others said it can take months or years for journals to resolve complaints about suspect studies. Of nearly 800 papers that Bik reported to 40 journals in 2014 and 2015for running misleading images, only a third had been corrected or retracted five years later, she said.

The work isn’t without risk. French infectious-disease specialist Didier Raoult threatened to sue Bik after she flagged alleged errors in dozens of papers he co-wrote, including one touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19. Raoult said he stood by his research.

Elisabeth Bik at home in California.Photo:Clara Mokri for The Wall Street Journal
Honest workSimonsohn got a tip in 2021 about the data used in papers published by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino. Her well-regarded studies explored moral questions: Why do some people lie? What reward drives others to cheat? What factors influence moral behavior?

The three scientists examined data underlying four studies and identified what they said were irregularities in how some entries appeared. Numbers in data sets look to have been manually changed. In December 2021, they sent their discoveries to Harvard, which conducted its own investigation.

Harvard concluded Gino was “responsible for ‘research misconduct,’” according to her lawsuit against Harvard, Nelson, Simmons and Simonsohn. The Harvard Business School asked journals that published the four papers to retract them, saying her results were invalid.

In June this year, the trio posted their conclusions about Gino’s studies on Data Colada. Data in four papers, they said, had been falsified. When they restored what they hypothesized was correct information in one of the four studies, the results didn’t support the study’s findings. The postssent the social sciences community into an uproar.

Gino is on administrative leave, and the school has begun the process of revoking her tenure. In her lawsuit, Gino said Harvard’s investigation was flawed as well as biased against her because of her gender. A business school spokesman declined to comment. The suit also contends that the Data Colada blog posts falsely accused her of fraud. The three scientists said they stood by their posted findings.

Gino, through her lawyer, denied wrongdoing. She is seeking at least $25 million in damages. “We vehemently disagree with any suggestion of the use of the word fraud,” said Gino’s lawyer Andrew Miltenberg. Gino declined to comment.

Miltenberg said Gino was working on a rebuttal to Data Colada’s conclusions.

In August, a group of 13 scientists organized a fundraiser that in a month collected more than $300,000 to help defray Data Colada’s legal costs.

“These people are sending a very costly signal,” Simmons said. “They’re paying literal dollars to be, like, ‘Yeah, scientific criticism is important.’”

Write to Nidhi Subbaraman at

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From: Broken_Clock10/20/2023 12:08:19 PM
   of 436144
US Declares ‘War’
October 20, 2023


Michael Brenner subjects the audaciously aggressive U.S. strategic posture to the kind of examination that he finds remarkably absent, even at the highest levels of government.

The Armed Forces Farewell and Hail for 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley and 21st Chairman General Charles Q. Brown, Sept. 29 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia. (White House, Carlos Vazquez)

By Michael Brenner
U.S. foreign policy has set the country on a course destined to lead to a world of rivalry, strife and conflict into the foreseeable future. Washington has declared “war” on China, on Russia, on whomever partners with them.

That “war” is comprehensive — diplomatic, financial, commercial, technological, cultural, ideological. It implicitly fuses a presumed great power rivalry for dominance with a clash of civilizations: the U.S.-led West against the civilizational states of China, Russia and potentially India.

Direct military action is not explicitly included but armed clashes are not absolutely precluded. They can occur via proxies as in Ukraine. They can be sparked by Washington’s dedication to bolster Taiwan as an independent country.

A series of formal defense reviews confirm statements by the most senior U.S. officials and military commanders that such a conflict is likely within the decade. Plans for warfighting are well advanced. This feckless approach implicitly casts the Chinese foe as a modern-day Imperial Japan despite the catastrophic risks intrinsic to a war between nuclear powers.

The extremity of Washington’s overreaching, militarized strategy intended to solidify and extend its global dominance is evinced by the latest pronouncement of required war-fighting capabilities.

Recommendations just promulgated by the congressional bipartisan Strategic Posture Commission include developing and fielding “homeland integrated air and missile defenses that can deter and defeat coercive attacks by Russia and China, and determine the capabilities needed to stay ahead of the North Korean threat.”

They were endorsed by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley in his post-retirement interview where he proposed adding up to $1 trillion to the current defense budget in order to create the requisite capabilities.

President Joe Biden, in his weekend interview on 60 Minutes, reiterated the dominating outlook with buoyant optimism:

“We’re the United States of America, for God’s sake!; the most powerful nation in the history of the world.”

This is the same country whose war-fighting record since 1975 is one win, two draws and four losses — or five losses if we include Ukraine. (That tabulation excludes Granada which was a sort of scrimmage). Moreover, the U.S. stock of 155mm artillery ammunition is totally exhausted – as is that of its allies.

No Discussion

Biden at the Department of Defense in February 2021. (DoD, Lisa Ferdinando)

This historic strategic judgment is heavily freighted with the gravest implications for the security and well-being of the United States — and will shape global affairs in the 21st century.

Yet, it has been made in the total absence of serious debate in the country-at-large, in Congress, within the foreign policy community, in the media and — most astonishing — at the highest levels of the government as well.

The last lapse is evinced by the superficiality of the statements issued by Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Milley and their associates.

We have heard nothing in the way of a sober, rigorous explication of why and how China or Russian poses so manifest a threat as to dictate committing ourselves to an all-out confrontation.

Nor do we hear mention of alternative strategies, their pluses and minuses, nor are there candid expositions of the costs that will be incurred in their implementation. Most certainly, silence reigns as to what happens if this audacious, all-or-nothing strategy fails — in whole or in part.

The stunning rise of China along with the reemergence of Russia as a formidable power are developments apparent to attentive observers for quite some time.

For Russia, the landmark dates can be identified.

Russian Milestones

Valdimir Putin delivers the Munich speech, 2007. (Kremlin)

The first was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech to the Munich Security Conference in 2007. There, he made clear his rejection of the Western script that relegated Russia to a subordinate position in a world system organized according to principles and interests defined largely by the United States.

Whether fashioned as neo-liberal globalization or, practically speaking, American hegemony, it was unacceptable. Instead, Putin set forth the twin concepts of multipolarity and multilateralism. While emphasizing the sovereign status and legitimate interest of all states, his vision did not foresee conflict or implacable rivalry. Rather, it was envisaged demarcating international dealings as a collective enterprise that aimed at mutual gain based on mutual respect for each other’s identity and core interests.

Washington, though, interpreted it otherwise. In their minds, Putin had thrown a monkey wrench into the project of fashioning a globalized world overseen by the United States and its partners.

President George W. Bush’s administration made the judgment that an irksome Russia should be fenced-in and its influence curbed. That objective animated the campaign to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, the sponsorship of the doomed Georgian attack on disputed South Ossetia, on the attempt to block the building of a new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and on setting strict terms for commercial exchanges.

It culminated in the 2014 Maidan coup in Kiev and the bolstering of Ukraine as a power that could keep Russia in its place. The rest of that story we know.

Then, the image of Putin as a diabolical Machiavellian who works relentlessly to cripple the U.S. was given a thick layer of varnish by the Russiagate charade — a scheme concocted by presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton and her allies in order to explain how she could lose an election against somebody who started the fall campaign with a personal unfavorable poll rating of 67 percent.

The Chinese Challenge

Purple Light Pavilion in Beijing, 2013. (State Department, Flickr, Alison Anzalone)

The confrontation with China is not marked by equally clear events or decision points. Designation of China as the challenger to the U.S. position as global supremo crystallized more gradually.

It was the Middle Kingdom’s growing strength in every dimension of national power and capacity that stirred first anxiety and then fear. This challenging rival had become a threat to the foundational belief in U.S. exceptionalism and superiority. Hence, an existential threat in the truest sense.

(“This town ain’t big enough for both of us!” is a familiar line to Americans for the way it punctuates showdowns in hundreds of Westerns. Now it has spilled into foreign policy as a neat summation of Washington’s attitude toward Beijing. Instead, how about inviting the other guy for a drink at the Long Branch and a long talk? Dutch treat.)

The string of disputes over this or that issue were symptoms rather than the cause of the antagonism mixed with dread that has led the U.S. to treat China as a mortal foe. When we look at the chronology of events, it becomes evident that the U.S. bill of indictment does not come close to justifying that conclusion.

The fashionable — now official — view is that it’s all China’s fault.

President Xi Jinping & Co supposedly spurned the opportunity to join the outward-looking community of liberal nations; they have grown increasingly repressive at home — thereby, disqualifying themselves from partnership with the democracies; they have been aggressive in pushing their territorial claims in the South China Sea; they have not composed their differences with neighbors, most importantly Japan; and they have deviated from the Western (i.e. American line) toward Iran while mediating a modus vivendi with Saudi Arabia.

Closer to home, China is accused of operating extensive spying networks in the United States designed to purloin valuable high technology; of systematically manipulating commercial dealings to their advantage; and they are extending their cultural influence in a porous American society.

In this bill of indictment no reference is made to dubious actions by the United States. Washington’s record as a global citizen is less than impeccable. Specifically in reference to China, it is Washington that made what are by far the most provocative moves.

Let’s recall the jailing of Huawei’s CFO in Vancouver at the Trump White House’s insistence on specious grounds (violation of Washington’s own illegal sanctions campaign against Iran) in order to thwart the company’s success in becoming a dominant player in the IT field. Former President Donald Trump himself admitted as much in stating that the United States might refrain from pursuing her prosecution were China ready to concede to his demands in the bilateral trade negotiations.

Nancy Pelosi, left, visiting Taiwan’s legislature in August 2022 while she was serving as House speaker. (Legislative Yuan, Wikimedia Commons)

The ultimate provocation has been the series of steps in regard to Taiwan that signaled clearly Washington’s intention to prevent its integration into the PRC. Thereby, it crossed the most indelible of red lines — one that the United States itself had helped draw and had observed for half a century. It is tantamount to an Old Europe aristocrat slapping another in the face with his gloves in public. An unmistakable invitation to a duel that precludes negotiation, mediation or compromise.

Not Just a Rival

The United States finds it far easier to deal with manifest enemies, e.g. the U.S.S.R., than sharing the international stage with countries that match it in strength whatever degree of threat it poses to American national security.

The latter is far harder for Americans to handle — emotionally, intellectually, diplomatically.

Hence, the growing tendency to characterize China as not just a rival for global influence but as a menace. That results in a caricature of China’s ambitions and a downplaying of prospects for fostering a working relationship among rough equals.

An enormous amount of energy is being put into this delusional enterprise. The target is America itself. The project is a bizarre form of conversion therapy designed to substitute a confected version of reality for the irksome real thing.

Stunning evidence of this self-administered treatment is available on a routine basis in the pages of The New York Times. Every day we are treated to two or three long stories about what’s wrong with China, its trials and tribulations. No occurrence is too recondite or distant to be exempt from being used in an exaggerated diagnosis of social or political illness. The extremes to which the editors go in this re-education program is pathological.

The threat China presents is to an exalted self-image more than to any tangible interests. At its root, the problem is psychological.

By time that the Biden administration arrived in office, the scene had been set for the declaration of war and the taking of concrete steps in that direction. But it’s odd that such a momentous commitment should be made by such a lackluster team of individuals with a diminished, distracted president as its nominal head. That can be attributed to two factors.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon on March 1, 2001. (DoD photo by R. D. Ward)

First is the dogmatic worldview of the principals. Their outlook represents an absorption of Paul Wolfowitz’s notorious memo of 1992 laying out a manifold strategy for consolidating and extending U.S. world dominance in perpetuity.

Second is the neocon passion to shape other countries in the U.S. image. That blend was laced with a dash of old-fashioned Wilsonian idealism along with a drizzle of humanitarianism from the Responsibility to Protect movement (R2P).

[Related: Chris Hedges: R2P Caused Libya’s Nightmare]

This potent brew had become orthodoxy for nearly all of the U.S. foreign policy community. In addition, a rudimentary version has gained the adherence of the political class and has shaped the thinking of Congress to whatever extent its members do any thinking about external relations beyond habitual resort to convenient hackneyed slogans.

Alternative No. 1

Objectively speaking, alternatives did exist.

The first we might call inertial ad-hocism. Its features would have been the continued segmentation of the country’s external dealings into more-or-less discrete packets — geographical and functional.

The Middle East’s two sub-categories: Israel and the Gulf; the desultory “War On Terror” wherever; the aggressive promotion of neo-liberal globalization featuring the ensconcing of a heteroclite corporate/technocratic/political elite as guides and overseers; bilateral relations with new economic powers like India and Brazil to bring them into the neo-liberal orbit; business-as-usual with the rest of the Global South.

As for China and Russia, one would be treated as a formidable rival and the other as an overreaching nuisance to be stymied in places in Syria and Central Asia. Concrete steps to counteract the Chinese commercial and technological challenge would have been taken either unilaterally or in hard-nosed direct bargaining. Support for Taiwan would have increased but stopped short of ruffling Beijing’s feathers by calling into question the One-China Principle.

Xi and Putin during the Chinese leader’s visit to Moscow in 2019. (Kremlin)

The foundational premise of this approach is that an ever-deepening neo-liberal system would pull China into its field as a politico-economic centrifugal magnet. Hence, by an incremental process a potential challenge to American-Western hegemony would be gradually neutralized, avoiding a direct confrontation.

Russia, for its part, could be treated more roughly: the post-2014 sanctions tightened, its approaches in Syria and on other matters rebuffed and the quiet build-up of Ukraine continued. This, in essence, was the tack taken by former President Barack Obama and Trump.

Today’s uniform assumption that a momentous battle with the Chinese is written in the stars, the culmination of a zero-sum rivalry for global dominance, is of relatively recent vintage.

Not so long ago, the consensus was that the most sensible strategy composed two elements.

The first was peaceful engagement emphasizing economic interdependence leading to China’s participation in a more-or-less orderly world system whose rules-of-the-road might have to undergo some modification but where power politics was restrained and contained.

(Regarding the restructuring of existing international organizations, the IMF stands out. Since its post-war founding, the United States has held veto power over any or all of its actions. It adamantly refuses to relinquish it despite the drastic shifts in the constellation of global financial and monetary power. Hence, the IMF serves as a de facto subsidiary of the State Department. This state of affairs soon will prove absolutely unacceptable to China and the BRICs.)

July 30, 2023, BRICS Map key: Blue = Members; Light Blue = Joining on Jan. 2, 2024; Orange = Applicants; Yellow = Expressed interest in joining; Gray = No relationship with BRICS. (MathSquare, Wikimedia Commons, Dmitry Averin is author of original source image; CC BY-SA 4.0)

The second was a measure of military balancing to remove any temptation as might exist in Beijing for empire-building while reassuring neighbors. The open question focused on exactly where and how the balance should be struck.

That was the prevailing perspective until roughly the second Obama administration. These days, that approach has lost its place in the mainstream of foreign policy discourse. There is no fixed day or event, though, that marks the abrupt and sharp change of course.

This disjointed incremental line of approach has its advantages despite its leaning toward conflict. Paramount is that it avoids locking the United States into a position of implacable hostility vis a vis China. There is no embedded logic propelling us toward armed conflict. It implicitly leaves open the possibility of U.S. thinking moving in a more positive direction.

Whatever the odds of such an evolution occurring, and on the arrival in the White House of a president with the bold vision of a true statesman, such a development would not be excluded as it is by the current mobilization for generational “war.”

Alternative No. 2

There is another, radical alternative grounded on the belief that it is feasible to fashion a long-term strategy of nurturing ties of cooperation with Russia and China. Taking some form of partnership, it would be grounded on a mutual commitment to the maintenance of political stability and fashioning mechanisms for conflict avoidance. This is by no means as far fetched as first glance might suggest — in concept.

The idea of a great power concert comes to mind. However, we should envisage an arrangement quite different from the historic Concert of Europe that emerged at the Conference of Vienna in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.

One, the objective would not be a buttressing of the status quo by the dual strategy of refraining from armed conflict among the underwriting states and suppressing revolutionary movements that could endanger existing monarchies. Its attendant features were the concentration of custodial power in the Big 5 co-managers of the system; the stifling of political reform across Europe; and the disregard of forces appearing outside their purview.

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By contrast, a contemporary partnership among the major powers would presume a responsibility for taking the lead in designing a global system based on the mutually reinforcing tenets of openness, sovereign equality and the promotion of policies that deliver plus-sum outcomes.

Rather than rule by a directorate, international affairs would be structured by international institutions modified in terms of philosophy, multilateral decision-making and a measure of devolution that empowers regional bodies. There would be an established pattern of consultation among those governments whose economic weight and military capacity quite naturally should be expected to play an informal role in performing system maintenance functions and facilitating the involvement of other states. Legitimacy would be established through conduct and performance.

The drastic fall in respect for U.S. world leadership will facilitate that process — as the BRICs’ successes already demonstrate.

The crucial starting point for such a project is a meeting of the minds among Washington, Beijing and Moscow — accompanied by dialogue with New Delhi, Brasilia et al.

There is reason to believe that conditions, objectively speaking, have been conducive to an undertaking of this order for several years. However, it was never recognized in the West, much less seriously considered — an historic opportunity lost.

“The threat China presents is to an exalted self-image more than to any tangible interests. At its root, the problem is psychological.”

The most significant sufficient factor is the temper of Chinese and Russian leadership. Xi and Putin are rare leaders. They are sober, rational, intelligent, very well informed and capable of broad vision.

(China’s traditional goal always has been to exact deference from other countries while bolstering their own strength — not to impose an imperium on them. Much less do they share the American impulse to arrange the affairs of the entire world according to a universalization of their own unique civilization. Therein lies an opportunity to avoid a “war of transition.”

However, there is no American leader on the horizon who recognizes this overarching reality and who seems prepared to grasp the opportunity to “bend the arc of history.” Obama briefly toyed with the idea — before relapsing into the stale rhetoric of American exceptionalism: “We’re number One — you better believe it. Nobody else is even close!”)

While dedicated to securing their national interests, above all the well-being of their peoples, neither Xi nor Putin harbor imperial ambitions. And both have long tenures as heads of state. They have the political capital to invest in a project of this magnitude and prospective. Washington, unfortunately, has not had leaders of similar character and talents.

As for U.S. allies, no counsel of restraint can be expected from that quarter. Those loyal vassals have moved from being craven irrelevancies to active, if junior, partners in crime.

An Odious Spectacle

Biden and Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18. (U.S. Embassy in Israel)

It is stomach-churning to observe the leaders of Europe lining up for slap-on-the-back meetings with Bibi Netanyahu in Tel Aviv while he inflicts atrocities on Gazans. Barely a word of concern for 2 million civilians, just the hurried dispatch of more weapons diverted from the Ukrainian killing fields. This odious spectacle was eclipsed by Biden’s disgraceful performance this week in Jerusalem.

Summit meetings by Bush, Obama, Trump or Biden always have concentrated on either small-bore issues or instruction on what their opposite number should be doing so as to conform to the U.S. view of the world. Both are wastes of precious time insofar as the imperative to foster a long-term, common global perspective is concerned.

The sensible approach to inaugurate a serious dialogue might be a president with statesmanlike qualities who sits down alone with Putin and Xi for an open-ended session and asks such questions as: “What do you want, President Putin/President XI? How do you see the world 20 years from now and your country’s place in it?”

Would they be prepared to expound an articulate response? Putin certainly would. That is exactly what he has been proposing since 2007 — on numerous occasions vocally or in his writings. Instead, he was stonewalled, and — since 2014 — treated as a menacing pariah to be defamed and personally insulted.

Here is Barack Obama’s take:

“The Russian President is a ‘physically unremarkable’ man, likened to ‘the tough, street-smart ward bosses who used to run the Chicago machine.”

This comment from Obama’s first volume of his published memoirs, The Promised Land, says more about his own inflated yet vulnerable ego than Putin’s character.

In fact, it was the Chicago machine along with money and encouragement from the Pritzker network that made Obama what he became.

Contrast: when Bismarck met Disraeli at the 1878 Berlin Conference — going so far as to invite him, a Jew, home twice for meals — he did not nag the British prime minister about trade restrictions on German exports of textiles and metallurgical goods or the systematic British abuse of tea plantation workers in Assam.

Nor did he comment on the man’s physique. Bismarck was a serious statesman, unlike the people in whose custody we place the security and well-being of our nations.

Putin and Obama meeting in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, June 18, 2012. (White House, Pete Souza)

The upshot is that Putin and Xi seem puzzled by feckless Western counterparts who disregard the elementary precepts of diplomacy. That should be a concern as well — except by those who intend to conduct the U.S. “war” in a linear manner that pays little attention to the thinking of other parties.

The vitriol that is thrown at Putin with such vehemence by his Western counterparts is something of a puzzle. It is manifestly disproportionate to anything that he has done or said by any reasonable measure — even if one distorts the underlying story of Ukraine.

Obama’s condescension suggests an answer. At its core, their attitude reflects envy. Envy in the sense that he is subconsciously recognized as clearly superior in attributes of intelligence, knowledge of contemporary issues and history, articulateness, political savvy and – most certainly – diplomatic skill.

Try to imagine any U.S. leader emulating Putin’s performance in holding three-hour open Q & A sessions with citizens of all stripes — responding directly, in detail, coherently and with good grace. Biden? Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? German Chancellor Olaf Scholz? British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak? French President Emmanual Macron? Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission? Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallis?

Even Obama, from whom we’d get canned sermons cast in high-minded language that distills into very little. That’s why the West’s political class assiduously avoids paying attention to Putin’s speeches and press conferences — out of sight, out of mind.

Act in reference to the make-believe cartoon instead of the real man.

The Ukraine Era

Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 20 during the U.S. president’s unannounced visit to Kiev. (White House/Adam Schultz)

These days, in the Ukraine era, the rigid Washington consensus is that Vladimir Putin is the quintessential brutal dictator — power mad, ruthless and with only a tenuous grip on reality.

Indeed, it has become commonplace to equate him with Hitler — as done by such leading lights of the U.S. power elite as Hillary Clinton and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi along with “opinion makers” galore. Even 203 noble Nobels lend their collective brains and celebrity credentials to an “open letter” whose second sentence pairs Russia’s attack on Ukraine with Hitler’s assault on Poland in September 1939.

Sadly, the idea that those who make those decisions should bother to know what they are talking about is widely deemed as radical if not subversive.

In regard to Putin, there is absolutely no excuse for such painful ignorance. He has presented his views on how Russia visualizes its place in the world, relations with the West and the contours/rules of a desired international system more comprehensively, historically informed and coherently than has any national leader I know of. Shouted declarations “we’re No. 1 and always will be – you better believe it” (Obama) are not his style.

The point is that you may be troubled by his conclusions, question his sincerity, suspect hidden strands of thought, or denounce certain actions. However, doing so has no credibility unless one has engaged the man based on what is available — not on cartoon caricatures. So, too, should we recognize that Russia is not a one-man show, that it behooves us to consider the more complex reality that is Russian governance and politics.

President Xi of China has escaped the personal vilification thrown at Putin — so far. But Washington has made no greater effort to engage him in the sort of discourse about the future shape of Sino-American relations and the world system for which they are destined to be primary joint custodians.

Xi in Moscow in 2019, at a gala marking the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and China. (Kremlin)

Xi is more elusive than Putin. He is far less forthright, more guarded and embodies a political culture very different from that of the United States or Europe. Still, he is no dogmatic ideologue or power-mad imperialist. Cultural differences too easily can become an excuse for avoiding the study, the pondering and the exercise in strategic imagination that is called for.

Shaping the World Structure

The approach outlined above is worth the effort – and low costs that it entails. For it is the understandings among the three leaders (and their senior colleagues) that are of the utmost importance.

That is to say, agreed understandings as to how they view the shape and structure of world affairs, where their interests clash or converge, and how to meet the dual challenge of 1) handling those points of friction that may arise, and 2) working together to perform ‘system maintenance’ functions in both the economic and security realms.

At the moment, there is no chance that American leaders can muster the gumption, or have the vision, to set out on this course. Neither Biden and his team, nor their Republican rivals are up to it.

In truth, American leaders are psychologically and intellectually not capable of thinking seriously about the terms for sharing power with China, with Russia or with anybody else – and developing mechanisms for doing so over different timeframes.

Washington is too preoccupied with parsing the naval balance in East Asia to reflect on broad strategies. Its leaders are too complacent about the deep faults in our economic structures, and too wasteful in dissipating trillions on chimerical ventures aimed at exorcising a mythical enemy to position ourselves for a diplomatic undertaking of the sort that a self-centered America never before has faced.

A drive to revalidate its presumed virtue and singularity now impels what the U.S. does in the world. Hence, the calculated stress placed on slogans like “democracy versus autocracy.” That is a neat metaphor for the uneasy position in which Uncle Sam finds himself these days, proudly pronouncing enduring greatness from every lectern and altar in the land, pledging to uphold a standing as global No. 1 forever and ever.

But the U.S. is also constantly bumping its head against an unaccommodating reality. Instead of downsizing the monumental juggernaut or applying itself to a delicate raising of the arch, it makes repeated attempts to fit through in a vain effort to bend the world to fit its mythology. Invocation of the Concussion Protocol is in order — but nobody wants to admit that sobering truth.

This is close to a condition that approximates what the psychologists call “dissociation.” It is marked by an inability to see and to accept actualities as they are for deep-seated emotional reasons.

The tension generated for a nation so constituted when encountering objective reality does not force heightened self-awareness or a change in behavior if the dominant feature of that reality is the attitudes and expressed opinions of others who share the underlying delusions.

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

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