Watch my June 21 episode to learn why this circus is going global.
Friday, June 16, 2017
There's a big to-do about an investigative thing by Australia's Four Corners/Fairfax Media concerning Chinese influence in Australia.
ASIO is the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, which curated the dossiers that Four Corners/Fairfax assiduously summarized and spun.
I think the series is highly significant, perhaps not in the way the journos hoped and intended, and the June 21 episode of China Watch will pick apart the details.
That's a teaser, folks. China Watch is behind the paywall, so you gotta open your wallets. I'm proud of what I'm doing there, it's unavailable elsewhere, and its worth more than what you're paying to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix.
So pony up.
A couple notes that didn't make it into the broadcast.
I found this nugget rather interesting:
Special Minister of State Scott Ryan has defended former trade minister Andrew Robb, who took an $880,000 part-time job as a consultant to a Chinese billionaire days after the 2016 federal election.
Robb was handled rather gently, even though the billionaire in question was the guy who took the 99-year lease on Darwin port, the one that gave conniptions to the US natsec community.
The second thing that struck me was the emphasis on "the Chinese Communist Party" instead of "the People's Republic of China" as the evil agency behind the Chinese billionaires.
The CCP doesn't do overseas espionage, as far as I can tell. So that would seem to hinder the attempt to inflate the Chinese espionage menace. And the other big deal was Chinese billionaires Huang Xiangmo & Chau Chak Wing were big bucks contributors to Australian political parties which is legal even for foreigners down there and Chau's even an Australian citizen.
I got no problem with allegations that China is buyin' and spyin' and oppressin' and surveillin' inside Australia. But the report was more along the lines of choreographed threat inflation.
The bulk of the report was, to be unkind, third-rate national security journo-ing.
On China Watch, I was going to cite the instances of crude, dog-whistling assertions trotted out instead of hard facts but the list got too darn long. So I'm doing it here.
At the end of this post, I document the atrocities from just one of the articles, which obligingly passes along a report from the ASIO about a break-in it conducted on Sheri Yan's apartment in 2015.
Sheri Yan probably deserves a post for herself. She ran what looked like a Clinton Foundation clone, the Global Sustainability Foundation, that got funds from Chinese moneybags and delivered access to and if possible allegedly favors from UN bureaucrats. According to the U.S. government, in the person of NeverTrump celebrity Preet Bahara, Yan passed on some of that money as bribes to UN officials, including John Ashe, who became president of the UN General Assembly.
One billionaire she allegedly did errands for was Chau Chak Wing. If that was the case, Yan took the fall--she's doing 20 months in federal prison--instead of rolling over on him. Another was Ng Lap Seng, who was named and nailed in the indictment.
This Ng Lap Seng.
Ng's first brush with bribery in the US (but no conviction!) was in the 1990s. He won fame in the United States in 1997 for funneling a few hundred thousand dollars to Bill Clinton through Little Rock restauranteur Charlie Trie, visiting the White House a few times, and helping lose Al Gore the White House with the "Chinagate" scandal.
An interesting data point is the allegation that the Clinton-related influence buying in the US was reputedly ordered by Jiang Zemin when Jiang was running the show and felt China needed a little more post-Tiananmen international political oomph.
According to the indefatigably anti-Jiang Zemin Epoch Times, Chau Chak Wing is also a member of Jiang's Shanghai clique. In my China Watch video I speculate that Australia has become a haven for Shanghai clique members seeking to escape the attentions of Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan, and their credentials as trusted PRC state actors are open to question.
Anyway, ASIO, the FBI, and whoever obviously has a hardon for these people, maybe along the lines of, Hey, they bribed Clintons so we'll get 'em for this! and believe they deserve to be nailed no matter what. Four Corners/Fairfax obliged by cranking up the innuendo machine.
Here I am documenting the dishonest dossier hustling in the Sheri Yan piece, with my disapproving sniffing in boldface:
“The raid…reflects deep concern inside ASIO”
“it is the Chinese Communist party causing the greatest concern…”
“ASIO suspected…that Ms Yan’s activities extended well beyond bribery. Classifed material shared between FBI counter-espionage officials and ASIO…suggested Ms Yan may have been working with Chinese intelligence.”
“It is understood the investigation into Ms Yan involves suspicions she infiltrated or sought clandestine influence in Australia and the US on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Professor Rory Medcalf…says the ASIO raid would not have occurred without…input from many parts of the Australian national security community”…”the targeting reflects a small part of a ‘deep and real concern’…Eight serving government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, broadly confirmed Mr. Medcalf’s assessment…also confirmed …the agency had been collating intelligence suggesting…ASIO feared the campaign was succeeding…
[ASIO] prepared an extraordinary document…at the top was a diagram representing the Chinese Communist Party with lines connected this diagram to photos of two Chinese born billionaires [Huang and Chau].
Donors could be channels to advance Beijing’s interests: AISO.
“[Lewis] said ‘be careful’…he was saying the connections between these guys and the Communist Party is strong”…
In the oh, for f*ck's sake column, here's the takeaway the head of ASIO offered the political parties while wielding his "extraordinary" picture-and-line filled document:
In his briefing, Mr. Lewis was careful to stress that neither Dr. Chau nor Huang Xianmo was accused of any crime and that Mr. Lewis wasn’t instructing the parties to stop taking their donations.”
Back to the smear stuff:
“We have to assume that individuals like that have really deep, serious connections to the Chinese Communist Party”.
“Mr. Medcalf said ASIO’s decision to come out of the shadows and identify Dr Chua in its briefings is “certainly unusual”…”it would reflect very real concern”
If Dr Chau has taken a position on any policy issue in Australia he’s not done so publicly…But for parts of the Chinese Communist Party, access to the right networks may be worthwhile in and of itself.
This may be why Sheri Yan sought to compromise UN chief John Ashe, according to former CIA officer turned China watcher Peter Mattis.
The magnificent coda to this effort is provided by a Ford Foundation guy:
“John Fitzgerald, a former Ford Foundation director…told Four Corners and Fairfax Media of a warning he received from an “old friend in Australia’s security establishment” to “stay away from Yan”.
“Once you know that, you don’t need to know much more.”
Watch my June 21 episode to learn why this circus is going global.
Thursday, June 08, 2017
The best works of art strike you the wrong way…and maybe not in the way that the artist intended.
I had that feeling reading Douglas Preston’s Lost City of the Monkey God (hereinafter LCMG).
LCMG is a purpose-built celebration of archaeology, technology, and adventure in the detection and partial exploration of some ruins in the jungle in Honduras. But as the book plays out, the whole thing plays out as a rather creepy calculated geopolitical operation.
The basic adventure premise—buncha white folk appropriate a region and its history thanks to their superior capabilities in exploration, interpretation, and conservation—is pretty much de trop in the post Edward Said/Orientalism era. And the book suffers from the “gee whiz another benighted realm conquered by the forces of civilization” cheerleading.
Add to that the whole milsec overlay a.k.a. “flabby civilians must rely on the hard men of the military to keep them safe” which starts with the entire foray into the jungle getting put under the command of some ex-SAS types, whose legacy of mad survival skillz probably goes back to doing the dirty during the Malay insurgency.
Beyond the “civilization would not survive without the soldiers” vibe I picked up, the key technology that made the mission possible—lidar—is a core military capability.
Lidar is basically radar using lasers instead of microwaves. Add high precision, military grade GPS and some fancy number crunching to the lidar, it turns out the jungle surface below the canopy can be imaged. Lidar provided the imagery that demonstrated that there was a big, ancient civilization thing beneath the jungle canopy in Honduras.
Lidar works great in dry, sandy spots like the Middle East, where I assume its ability to detect the camps of hostiles, IEDs, and maybe hostiles itself is a valued asset; well, turns out it works satisfactorily in jungle environments too. So if this breakthrough occurred thanks to the LCMG operation, I guess we can thank “Big Archaeology” for the enhanced capability to waste America’s enemies in jungle battlefields as well.
The “people in peril” plot hook for LCMG is that several members of the expedition, including the author, Douglas Preston, came down with a nasty parasite, leishmania, carried by mammalian vectors & transmitted to humans via sand flies, which required treatment with experimental drugs at the National Institutes of Health.
Preston got access to the NIH parasitology lab where “leish” is studied, and penned this passage:
Inside was an off-putting sight: two anesthetized mice lying belly up, paws in the air, twitching. They were completely covered with feeding sand flies, whose tiny guts were expanding into bright red berries of blood…Later these sand flies would be infected artificially, a complicated process. A delicate, hand-blown, tiny glass bottle has a piece of raw chicken skin stretched over it like a drumhead. This skin is moistened with mouse blood to fool the flies into thinking it is mammalian skin. The liquid inside the bottle is also mouse blood, seeded with the parasite…Once a sand fly is infected, the lab workers must coax it into biting a live mouse…At the end of my tour, a lab assistant brought out two bottles of live leishmanial parasites for me to look at under the microscope…As I focused the eyepieces, the parasites sprang into view, thousands of them in ceaseless motion...
Since I’ve been raised on a diet of Alien movies, I suppose I’m excessively sensitive to the feeling that Preston had gained access to America’s premier bioweapons lab, where rest-of-world biothreats are appropriated in the best imperial fashion for study, neutralization, and exploitation, and to make sure they don’t interfere with the national mission of doing stuff anywhere and everywhere.
By this point in the book I’m thinking, golly, this expedition has a sh*tload of stroke. It gets a planeful of classified lidar equipment to run the survey and when things go off the rails for members of the team, disease-wise, they’re in tight with the NIH.
Made me think about some other things, like how this book is basically a handjob for the current right wing regime that deposed Honduran president Zelaya in 2009.
The post-coup outfit clearly regards the “City of the Monkey God” as an opportunity to burnish the regime’s credential as good guys, and the president and military of Honduras are all over the book and described in the most glowing terms as dedicated to the protection and conservation of this snake-filled hellhole.
Preston also refers to the controversy that surrounded the search for the ruins, especially carping by Zelaya-era archaeologists and their sympathizers in the United States, that the expedition was imperial bullsh*t. Hard to argue that lidar didn’t turn up a significant archaeological find; also hard to argue that the whole thing doesn’t have the flavor of a Yanqui military PR romp through Honduras to enhance the legitimacy of the current ruling outfit.
I began to wonder if there was a US political angle in the expedition, which sure enough popped up when I googled Bill Benenson.
Bill Benenson’s role in the book is primarily that of good-hearted filmmaker who somehow comes up with the tons of money and access needed to transform a quixotic 25 year search for the lost city by Steve Elkins into a big-tech success story.
Well, turns out Bill Benenson prefers to think of himself as a filmmaker, but he’s also the scion of a New York City real estate empire that one could characterize as anti-Trumpian: low profile, successful, and hard-core Democratic.
The family’s total worth, split between Bill Benenson and two other brothers, is probably around $200 billion, a modest enough figure but sufficient to put the family on the Forbes 400 list. One of the other brothers, Lawrence, is on the advisory board of Patriotic Millionaires, a non-profit whose ringing mission statement pretty much encapsulates the premises of oligarchy a la Democrat:
The Patriotic Millionaires is a group of high-net worth Americans who are committed to building a more prosperous, stable and inclusive nation. The Patriotic Millionaires’ goal is to create an overwhelming public demand - a true mandate - for economic policies that serve regular Americans and political process policies that ensure everyone participates fully and equally in our democracy.
It would, of course, be a funny joke if billionaires were exempt from the leveling policies the group proposes for mere millionaires. The chair of Patriotic Millionaires, Morris Pearl, who was managing director of BlackRock, has rather coyly declined to state his net worth, only remarking he and his wife would be able to “live well” off their investments.
Bill Benenson and his wife are hardcore do-gooders in the conservation NGO way and also in the political way. They were not only Clinton bundlers during her presidential campaign; they also donated to the Clinton Foundation in the 100-250K range. And thanks to google, I acquired this gem, in which Nancy Pelosi characterizes one of Benenson’s other filmmaking endeavors, Beasts of No Nation, when it was screened at the White House with Benenson in attendance:
In Leader Pelosi’s words, “This is very special, the imprimatur of the Obama Administration is on this work of art, which is of course a statement of challenge to the conscience of all of us…”
The interesting question is, did Bill Benenson (and the US government) (and US globalist friendly media—Preston himself writes for the New Yorker which, under David Remnick, proudly flies its colors as a globalist rag and I actually laughed out loud when I read Preston’s account of how the founder of the New York Review of Books flew down to Honduras just to get a gander at this archaeological breakthrough; Why not Paris Review? I thought)…
…get behind the LCMG project to try and burnish the reputation of the new Honduran government (and Hillary Clinton, who was burdened politically among the lefties by her role in sh*tcanning the old Honduran government), and demonstrate the contributions to science and conservation and civilization (and in the process, empire) that could be made by enlightened capitalists and their cultured factotums working that whole glorious public/private partnership thing to advance the principled international order and, at the same time, secure the fortunes of a regime of pro-American sh*theels in Central America?
That question might make for an interesting book. But that book isn’t LCMG…at least not advertently.