Chief Magistrate In Assange Extradition Received Financial Benefits From Shadowy Groups

Chief Magistrate In Assange Extradition Received Financial Benefits From Shadowy Groups

Authored by Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis via the Daily Maverick



Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court in a security van after being sentenced on May 1, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The senior judge overseeing the extradition proceedings of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange received financial benefits from two partner organisations of the British Foreign Office before her appointment, it can be revealed.

It can further be revealed that Lady Emma Arbuthnot was appointed Chief Magistrate in Westminster on the advice of a Conservative government minister with whom she had attended a secretive meeting organised by one of these Foreign Office partner organisations two years before. 

Liz Truss, then Justice Secretary, “advised” the Queen to appoint Lady Arbuthnot in October 2016. Two years before, Truss — who is now Trade Secretary — and Lady Arbuthnot both attended an off-the-record two-day meeting in Bilbao, Spain. 

The expenses were covered by an organisation called Tertulias, chaired by Lady Arbuthnot’s husband — Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, a former Conservative defence minister with extensive links to the British military and intelligence community exposed by WikiLeaks.

Tertulias, an annual forum held for political and corporate leaders in the UK and Spain, is regarded by the UK Foreign Office as one of its “partnerships”. The 2014 event in Bilbao was attended by David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, while the Foreign Office has in the past funded Lord Arbuthnot’s attendance at the forum.

The Foreign Office has long taken a strong anti-Assange position, rejecting UN findings in his favour, refusing to recognise the political asylum given to him by Ecuador, and even labelling Assange a “miserable little worm”.

Lady Arbuthnot also benefited financially from another trip with her husband in 2014, this time to Istanbul for the British-Turkish Tatlidil, a forum established by the UK and Turkish governments for “high level” individuals involved in politics and business. 

Both Tertulias and Tatlidil are secretive gatherings about which little is known and are not obviously connected — but Declassified has discovered that the UK address of the two organisations has been the same. 

Lady Arbuthnot personally presided over Assange’s case as judge from late 2017 until mid-2019, delivering two controversial rulings. Although she is no longer personally hearing the Assange extradition proceedings, she remains responsible for supporting and guiding the junior judges in her jurisdiction. Lady Arbuthnot has refused to declare any conflicts of interest in the case.

The new revelations follow previous investigations by Declassified showing that Lady Arbuthnot received gifts and hospitality in relation to her husband from a military and cybersecurity company exposed by WikiLeaks. Declassified also revealed that the Arbuthnots’ son is linked to an anti-data leak company created by the UK intelligence establishment and staffed by officials recruited from US intelligence agencies behind that country’s prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder.



Lady and Lord Arbuthnot attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2017. Lady Arbuthnot was appointed Chief Magistrate in Westminster by the Queen eight months before, in September 2016, on the advice of Liz Truss, who had attended the 2014 Tertulias event with Lady Arbuthnot.

The Arbuthnots and Liz Truss

Tertulias’ annual meetings between the UK and Spain have been held since 1989 but the organisation has no public presence and provides no record of events. Declassified found that its current president is Jose de Areilza, a Spanish law professor who is also a board member of the Spanish Ministry of Defence.

Lord Arbuthnot records that he became the unpaid chair of Tertulias in 2012, at which time he was also chair of parliament’s Defence Committee. Arbuthnot was then also a member of the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel.

In October 2014, Liz Truss, who was then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), attended the Tertulias meeting in Bilbao, alongside the Arbuthnots, Lidington and at least four other British MPs.

Lord and Lady Arbuthnot spent two days at the event and received expenses worth £1,488.20 from Tertulias. Although having attended the annual event regularly since 2000, this was the first time Lord Arbuthnot recorded in his parliamentary register of interests the attendance of his wife.
At the time Lady Arbuthnot was deputy senior district judge. The reason for her attending a meeting described by Lord Arbuthnot as “bringing MPs, business people, academics and artists together to discuss topical issues” is not clear.

Liz Truss was in Bilbao for three days and accrued expenses of £1,235.48 paid by Tertulias. Her flight cost £825.48, suggesting she was flown first class. By contrast, Nick Boles MP charged £178.98 for his flight. The funders of Tertulias and Tatlidil are not known. 

The trip to Bilbao was one of only three Truss has accepted from third parties since becoming an MP in 2010. She also joined a group of Conservative MPs on a trip to Berlin in 2011 and attended in 2019 the annual forum of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a highly secretive meeting organised by the most influential neoconservative think tank in Washington populated by senior US military and intelligence officials. 

Declassified recently revealed how the AEI, which has a strongly anti-Assange position, has been courting British ministers for years. 



Liz Truss, then minister for DEFRA, speaks in the Guggenheim museum at the secretive Tertulias meeting in Bilbao, Spain, 18 October 2014. Standing to her right is Tertulias’ chairman, Lord Arbuthnot. Foreign Office partner organisation Tertulias also paid for Lady Arbuthnot — Julian Assange’s senior judge — to attend this event.

Declassified is now publishing a photo of Truss giving a speech at the 2014 Tertulias forum in the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Lord Arbuthnot can be seen standing next to her, likely having just introduced his fellow Conservative MP. It is not known if Lady Arbuthnot was present. 

Truss’s visit to Tertulias is secret enough for even the department she oversaw as minister at the time — DEFRA — to have no information on it. Responding to Declassified’s Freedom of Information request for communications between the minister and Tertulias or an itinerary for the Bilbao meeting, DEFRA responded: “Following a search of our paper and electronic records, we have established that the information…you have requested is not held by DEFRA.” It is unclear if Truss used a private email to organise the visit.

In Istanbul

The month following the Tertulias forum, in November 2014, Lady Arbuthnot went on another trip with her husband, this time to Istanbul for the British-Turkish Tatlidil, which paid the Arbuthnots £2,426 for flights and expenses. 

Lord Arbuthnot described the purpose of the visit as “to promote and further bilateral relations between Britain and Turkey at a high level”. Tatlidil, which means “sweet talk” in Turkish, was established in 2011 by then prime minister David Cameron and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It describes its objectives as “facilitating and strengthen [sic] relations between the Republic of Turkey and the United Kingdom at the level of government, diplomacy, business, academia and media”.

The UK delegation to the 2014 meeting in Istanbul was led by Prince Andrew, who also hosted the Tatlidil in Edinburgh the previous year. Then foreign minister Tobias Ellwood spoke at the forum while former foreign secretary Jack Straw, who is a co-chair of Tatlidil, presided over one of the discussions. Erdoğan spoke at the meeting and reportedly called for the removal of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. 

The sparse information available on the meeting, which largely comes from social media, suggests that Lady Arbuthnot may not have attended the discussions since there was a separate “spouses/partners programme” involving local visits.



Prince Andrew talks to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other officials at the Foreign Office-linked off-the-record British-Turkish Tatlidil forum, 29 November 2014. Lord and Lady Arbuthnot were both paid by Tatlidil to attend that year’s event.

Same addresses

Declassified has discovered that the addresses given by Lord Arbuthnot and other parliamentarians for Tertulias and Tatlidil have been the same — despite no obvious connection between the two organisations other than the UK Foreign Office. All the addresses are residential with no clear reason why they would be official addresses of high-level Foreign Office-linked fora.

In 2012, Arbuthnot recorded in his parliamentary register of interests that the address of both organisations was a Grade II listed house in the village of Cowlinge, Suffolk, which has a population of just over 600 people. From 2013-16, the address changed to a house in Higham, a small village with 140 people, also in Suffolk.

The land registry states that the Higham address is part of the Dalham Estate in Newmarket, and is owned by Arat Investments, a vehicle incorporated in Guernsey with a PO Box address. There is little information publicly available about Arat, given Guernsey’s secrecy laws. It has been reported that the estate is owned by Sheikh Mohammed al-Makhtoum, the ruler of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.

In 2017, the address for Tertulias changed again to a house — which is divided into three flats — in Battersea, south London. In more recent entries to the register of interests, the address is given by MPs as simply “private”.

Declassified has discovered that both Tertulias and Tatlidil had been managed by the same person living at the addresses given by parliamentarians. She told Declassified that Tertulias is “independent” but “works closely” with the Foreign Office. When asked about the organisation’s funders or any personnel involved, including its current parliamentary chair, information was refused.



One of the three residential properties which have been recorded by MPs in the parliamentary register of interests as the location of the Tertulias organisation, which funded Lady Arbuthnot’s trip to Bilbao. In the latest entries, the organisation’s address is listed only as “private”. (Photo: Matt Kennard)

Tertulias and the Foreign Office

Tatlidil was openly set up by the UK government, but Tertulias is also closely linked to the Foreign Office, which describes Tertulias as one of its “partnerships” and in 2013 referred to the forum as “our Tertulias”. Britain’s former ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, described the annual event as “our #1 bilateral forum” between the UK and Spain.

Last October, Europe minister Christopher Pincher attended the forum in Edinburgh and stated that “the annual Tertulias dialogue illustrates the breadth and depth of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Spain”. His predecessor Sir Alan Duncan attended the previous forum in Malaga.

Duncan, who has now left office, personally insulted Julian Assange in parliament in 2018 before adding: “It is of great regret that Julian Assange remains in the Ecuador embassy,” where he had been given political asylum by the Ecuadorian government.

Lord Arbuthnot recorded that the costs of his attending his first forum in 2000 were partly met by a “grant” from the Foreign Office. Labour minister Peter Mandelson said in 1998 that he attended the Tertulias forum “following official advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

At the 2014 Tertulias attended by Truss and the Arbuthnots, a Spanish banker was awarded a CBE by the Queen on recommendation of the British government.

Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan and Cabinet Minister David Liddington enjoy “warm encounter” with Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell at 30th annual Tertulias in Malaga. pic.twitter.com/a8EbIIToE5

— GBC News (@GBCNewsroom) October 27, 2018

Lady Arbuthnot’s rulings

Lady Arbuthnot’s husband is a key figure in the British military and intelligence establishment — a highly controversial issue given that Lady Arbuthnot has made rulings in the Assange case and continues to oversee it as chief magistrate.

Lord Arbuthnot was from 2016-17 a director of SC Strategy, a consultancy created by Sir John Scarlett, the former head of MI6 who had been behind the “dodgy dossier” used by Tony Blair to push for war with Iraq.  

Arbuthnot is currently the chair of the advisory board of arms corporation Thales UK and board member of Montrose Associates, a “strategic intelligence” consultancy, whose president is former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. 

Lady Arbuthnot has refused to formally recuse herself from the Assange case. A judiciary spokesman has said, “There has been no bias demonstrated by the chief magistrate. The chief magistrate, however, is aware of the judicial conduct guidance that advises on avoiding the perception of bias and is not hearing the case”.

It is unclear what “perception of bias” Lady Arbuthnot accepts and on what basis she stepped aside from personally hearing the case. 

The chief magistrate’s role includes “supporting and guiding district judge colleagues”, including Vanessa Baraitser, who ruled on the case in 2019. Lady Arbuthnot is also likely to have approved of Baraitser’s appointment to hear the Assange case. 

Her previous rulings on Assange cannot be revisited by the defence when she fails to declare a conflict of interest. 

Lady Arbuthnot’s first ruling on Assange was made in February 2018 while he was a political asylee in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange’s lawyers had applied to have his British arrest warrant withdrawn. 

Assange had never been charged with a crime, and in May 2017 the Swedish proceedings had been discontinued along with the European Arrest Warrant. The warrant related to Assange skipping bail to claim asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, where the Ecuadorian government agreed that he was at risk of political persecution in the United States. 

Arbuthnot refused the request. Her ruling was irregular, dismissing Assange’s fears of US extradition and the findings of the UN. “I accept that Mr Assange had expressed fears of being returned to the United States from a very early stage in the Swedish extradition proceedings but… I do not find that Mr Assange’s fears were reasonable,” she said.  

I give little weight to the views of the Working Group,” she added, referring to the United Nations body which termed Assange’s condition one of “arbitrary detention”. “I do not find that Mr Assange’s stay in the Embassy is inappropriate, unjust, unpredictable, unreasonable, unnecessary or disproportionate.”

When he was grabbed from the Ecuadorian embassy by British police in April 2019, district judge Michael Snow pilloried Assange’s claims that Lady Arbuthnot was conflicted: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests,” Snow told the court. 

Lady Arbuthnot made her most recent ruling on Assange in June 2019. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser — who is still overseen by Lady Arbuthnot — will rule on the extradition proceedings which begin on 25 February. 

Liz Truss, Lady Arbuthnot, Lord Arbuthnot, and the Foreign Office, did not respond to requests for comment. DM

Matt Kennard is head of investigations and Mark Curtis editor, of Declassified UK, a media organisation investigating UK foreign, military and intelligence policies. They tweet at @DCKennard and @markcurtis30. Follow Declassified on twitter at @DeclassifiedUK


Tyler Durden

Sun, 02/23/2020 – 08:10

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Vfl4Ha Tyler Durden

It Begins: Samsung Shutters Smartphone Factory In South Korea After Virus Outbreak

It Begins: Samsung Shutters Smartphone Factory In South Korea After Virus Outbreak

South Korea now emerges as the next hotspot of the Covid-19 outbreak that has been tormenting China for the last several months.

Late on Friday, South Korea reported 142 new confirmed cases, up a mindboggling 70% in just one day, to 346. A second death was also reported.

A virus outbreak in South Korea is expected to lead to similar economic disruptions that are currently visible in China. The most prone industries to supply chain disruption and factory shutdowns are electronic, automobile, and telecommunication firms. 

On Saturday, Samsung Electronics reported that a Covid-19 case was confirmed at its smartphone factory in the southeastern city of Gumi, resulting in a complete shutdown of the entire plant, reported Reuters.

Samsung said the manufacturing facility would be shut through the weekend as emergency disinfecting operations were underway. The area where the employee worked will be shut through next Tuesday, the company said, adding that all employees who came in contact with the infected person are now placed on self-quarantine (there was no mention of how many employees were under observation).

There was also no word on if Samsung would be testing employees for the virus, considering how easily transmittable and virtually undetectable the virus is in the incubation phase.

A three-hour bus ride north from Gumi to Icheon is the site of chipmaker SK Hynix, a key Apple supplier. We reported on Thursday that the company had a trainee test positive for the virus.

Hynix immediately told 800 employees late last week not to return to work and stay home for several weeks as a prevention measure to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Samsung and Hynix are two major electronics makers in the country and are experiencing virus-related disruptions. 

Hyundai Motor and its sister Kia Motors, the two are considered the 5th largest automaker in the world, have operations based in South Korea, and are currently experiencing factory shutdowns due to part shortages from China. 

Deutsche Bank published a note last week outlining how South Korea made the list of highly exposed economies to China. In other words, economic disruptions in China would have a significant impact on South Korea. 

Now that the virus is quickly spreading in South Korea, it’s only a matter of time before paralysis of its economy sets in, similar to the economic collapse in China. 

Former Morgan Stanley Asia chairman Stephen Roach warned last month that the global economy could be in a period of vulnerability, where an exogenous shock, such as the virus outbreak crushing factory output and killing consumption, could trigger the next worldwide recession.

With top electronic makers from South Korea to China shuttering plants and experiencing declining output – this all means lower chip demand, and the semiconductor bubble could finally have met its match.


Tyler Durden

Sun, 02/23/2020 – 07:35

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Mapping Out The Banking Elite’s Goal For A Cashless Monetary System – Part Two

Mapping Out The Banking Elite’s Goal For A Cashless Monetary System – Part Two

Authored by Steven Guinness,

In the first part of this article we traced the development of the ‘Utility Settlement Coin– a project that began in 2015 and which has now evolved through the inception of a consortium called Fnality International. Fnality are comprised of a number of the world’s biggest banks including Barclays and UBS, all of whom are shareholders in the scheme. Their objective as stated on the company’s website reads:

Fnality International has been founded to create a network of decentralised Financial Market Infrastructures (dFMIs) to deliver the means of payment-on-chain in tomorrow’s wholesale banking markets.

In practice, what Fnality are seeking to deliver is the construction of a distributed ledger technology based global payment system, one that can ‘facilitate tokenised, peer-to-peer markets‘.

Before we look into this more, let’s examine some of the key figureheads behind the project. First there is the CEO Rhomaios Ram, who for the best part of two decades worked for Deutsche Bank in roles that included European Head of Currencies & Commodities and Head of Transaction Banking in the UK and Ireland. The Chairman of Fnality, Jim Turley, has also worked at Deutsche Bank in various different positions. Outside of commercial banking, Turley once served on the board of the New York Fed Foreign Exchange Committee.

But perhaps the standout name on Fnality’s management team is Daniel Heller, the firm’s advisor on regulatory affairs. Described as an expert in financial sector regulation and financial stability, Heller has a track record of having served at both the Bank for International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund. At the BIS he was head of the Secretariat of the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems, whilst at the IMF he was the executive director for Switzerland, Poland, Serbia, Azerbaijan, and four Central Asian republics. According to the Peterson Institute, for which Heller is a visiting fellow, Heller’s present research ‘focuses on the impact of emerging digital technologies such as blockchain on the financial sector, financial stability, and central banking.’

Back in September last year, the BIS held a ‘Conference on global stablecoins‘ in which one of the participants was Fnality International who gave a presentation on the day (along with JP Morgan and the Libra Association behind Facebook’s planned digital currency). High on the agenda of this conference was the legal uncertainties around stablecoins as well as how they could be regulated in the name of promoting financial and monetary policy stability.

In conjunction with a DLT based global payment system, a leading focus of Fnality is to devise and implement solutions to the legal, regulatory, operational and technical aspects. If they were successful, the end result would be a regulated network of distributed, or decentralised, financial market infrastructures. That is the theory at least.

As evidenced by the coverage on the Libra Association, the regulatory environment is one of the main issues around the future implementation of a digital currency network, so it will no doubt benefit Fnality to have Daniel Heller amongst their management, given his speciality in regulatory affairs and his former role at the BIS. After all, it was they who in 2019 introduced the Innovation BIS 2025 project which is centred around the technology that would underpin CBDC’s.

It is worthwhile at this point to remind ourselves of what the Utility Settlement Coin project was set up to achieve. Five years ago we were told that USC would be implemented on DLT, and have the potential to transform clearing and settlement processes. One practical example of this is that cross border transactions that might normally take days to clear would be instantaneous thanks to both DLT and the blockchain technology at the heart of the infrastructure.

USC was described from the outset as an ‘enabler‘ of tokenised markets. For clarity, an asset such as money can be converted into a token and then be stored on a digital blockchain. JP Morgan’s JPM Coin follows this principle. One JPM Coin holds the equivalent value of $1 dollar, which JP Morgan will guarantee. These type of tokenised assets are widely being referred to by central bankers as stablecoins. The argument they use is that stablecoins pegged to stable (fiat) currencies work to minimise fluctuations in value. But whilst one token may hold the value of one corresponding dollar, it does not guarantee the purchasing power of that dollar. And as proven in the UK throughout the Brexit process, fiat currencies are not the panacea for exchange rate instability.

The vision for USC, which has carried through to Fnality International, was for it to be 100% backed by fiat currency held at the central bank level. Initially five currencies would be focused on: the dollar, the euro, the pound, the Japanese yen and Canadian dollar. According to the IMF, these five make up over 90% of global foreign exchange reserves. Aside from the Canadian dollar, all of them are part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights. The SDR is considered by some to be the foundations for a future global currency framework. Since the onset of renewed political nationalism and populism, a reformed SDR has been touted as a possible method to re-embolden multilateralism (another term for globalism).

The crux of USC is that it has been sold to people as a model for a decentralised digital future. We are told that JPM Coin and other stablecoins will offer an alternative method for transacting through distributed ledger technology, one that moves away from the centralised ground of today – ground that is monopolised by central banks.

In 2016, outgoing governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney commented that distributing the ledger ‘means multiple copies of the system. It can continue to operate if parts get knocked out. That removes the single point of failure risk inherent in a centralised system.

On the face of it that sounds promising. That is until you examine what Carney said next:

We need to be certain that the privacy of the data in those distributed copies cannot be compromised by cyber attack. One way this might be achieved is to limit the distribution of the ledger to existing trusted parties, such as other public sector entities.

As I have written about previously, the Bank of England are in the process of renewing their RTGS payments system to make it compatible with DLT. What this quote from Carney demonstrates is that even before distributed ledgers has been implemented through the BOE’s own systems, the bank is already exploring how to limit distribution. The rationale is not difficult to imagine – the BOE could simply say that opening the ledger out to multiple different providers could jeopardise financial stability and heighten the risk of cyber terrorism and data theft. Therefore, streamlining access would be the safer option.

Already there is a link between Fnality International and the Bank of England. Fnality’s tech partner, Clearmatics, took part in a BOE proof of concept in 2018 which was designed to understand the capability of DLT as a future component of the bank’s renewed RTGS payment system. Clearmatics reported back to the BOE that their systems were able to connect and achieve settlement in central bank money.

Where USC comes into that is potentially key. It has been suggested that it could operate as a bridge between different coins – a ‘tokenised correspondent channel‘ – to enable holders of one coin to transfer them to another provider. So rather than changing coins directly, the process would be conducted through USC. An objective of Fnality International is to connect decentralised market infrastructures to a corresponding central bank, which presumably would result in transactions being settled in central bank money through DLT ready payment systems. Hardly an example of a decentralised utopia.

Right now, the only form of central bank issued money is banknotes. With globalists intent on pushing the world towards a digital only monetary system, central banks will require an alternative form of issuing money in order to maintain control. That is where CBDC’s enter the picture.

As explained by the World Economic Forum in March 2019, distributed ledger technology is essential for the future introduction of central bank digital currencies, in short because it is DLT that would facilitate the use of CBDC’s:

If a central bank has strong motivations to employ CBDC for anti-money laundering, anti-corruption or tax evasion, or capital control and monitoring purposes, it will be less inclined to enable anonymity (at the cost of discouraging adoption). However, unless the central bank or state compels CBDC usage, those who wish to engage in illegal or illicit activity will continue to use cash and other alternatives (as well as new privacy-enabling cryptocurrencies) for these purposes.

How could a central bank ‘compel CBDC usage‘? One method could be through the rise of stablecoins and the regulatory uncertainty surrounding them.

The new head of the BIS Innovation Hub, Benoit Coeure, gave a speech back in September 2019 where he stated that price stability was a ‘precondition for a currency to gain widespread use‘, and that if stablecoins meet that precondition then they would become ‘the natural next step in the evolution of digital assets.’

The caveat is that all stablecoin initiatives ‘will have to conform to international anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations.’ In other words, one global regulatory standard adopted by all jurisdictions around the world. Right now stablecoin initiatives are pressing ahead with development amidst widespread regulatory uncertainty, which is allowing the narrative on CBDC’s to grow.

To quote Coeure from the same speech:

Many central banks have been working on CBDCs in recent years, though at differing speeds, depending on differences in demand for cash by citizens, among others.

Sveriges Riksbank and the Central Bank of Uruguay, for example, are among the most advanced central banks in this area. Their experiments with the “e-krona” and “e-peso” provide useful food for thought. 

The ECB and the Bank of Japan have already joined forces to examine the possible use of distributed ledger technology in financial market infrastructures.

The next natural step would be for global central banks to join forces and jointly investigate the feasibility of CBDCs based on common technical standards.

Right now, in the public domain at least, stablecoins are attracting the most attention. In a separate speech, Coeure commented that given their access to ‘large networks of existing users and customers‘, stablecoins ‘could be the first to have a truly global footprint.’

But, again, ‘regulatory answers should be internationally consistent.’ With regards to Facebook’s Libra, this is the one area in which so far there is no agreement.

It is a point I have laboured before but will do so again. Global planners largely depend on either instigating or taking advantage of crisis scenarios to help further their agenda of centralising power. For several years they have warned us of the dangers that stablecoins could present, in terms of terrorist financing, money laundering and data theft. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they could prove a stalking horse for the implementation of a global CBDC network, under the auspices of the BIS and the IMF.

But let’s not forget what the primary objective is here. The rise of digital currency has everything to do with bringing the estimated 1.7 billion people who exist outside of payment systems online. When it comes to the future of money, central banks have never had a problem with the technology behind stablecoins or crypocurrency. But they do have a problem with the anonymity of trade through the use of cash. If digital currency initiatives were to jeopardise the monetary system, and CBDC’s were put forward as a solution, the technology underpinning them will survive. What will not survive are physical, tangible assets.

The cashless society is not just a buzz phrase. It is part of a highly choreographed agenda which has significantly advanced over the last five years. With intiatives like the BIS Innovation Hub now underway and growing in momentum, the push to completely digitise money will only grow more intense from here on in.


Tyler Durden

Sun, 02/23/2020 – 07:00

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On the Money: Presidential Portraiture and Power in D.C.

Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama is in various respects quite different from the procession of presidential countenances in the National Portrait Gallery that you must traverse to get to it.

For one thing, it’s more popular with museum-goers. For another, it’s the only one that’s a picture of, and the only one that’s a picture by, a black person. And it feels very much of its moment—post-postmodern, we might say. Wiley’s complex repertoire of techniques and meanings—figurative, collage-like, unrelentingly concerned with identity politics, stylistically eclectic but also coherent—is a pretty good summary of where art is now.

Despite the nowness, however, the Obama portrait also serves the same function as Gilbert Stuart’s full-length George Washington: rendering a person into a symbol of state power.

Wiley’s pre-presidential works criticized inequalities and hierarchies of power as well as the way such hierarchies are frozen into the history of art. His 2005 painting Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps is a pointed critique of Jacques-Louis David’s heroic, neoclassical take on the same subject matter. The French emperor is replaced in the familiar equestrian composition with a black man.

Upstairs at the Portrait Gallery, near Amy Sherald’s image of Michelle Obama, is a huge Wiley painting of LL Cool J enthroned, almost photoshopped over a rococo wallpaper in red and gold. It has a dynamic and amusing quality; Wiley is an extremely intense and conscious colorist. His Obama is, in comparison, frozen in his dignity, given a muted, hieratic treatment that suggests a medieval Madonna—though the 44th president is sporting a nice watch and features that pop into three dimensions, much like Cool J’s, under the auspices of Wiley’s dramatic, hyperreal modeling.

It’s one thing to depict rappers and athletes with the triumphal dignity normally reserved for presidents, or to replace oppressive (and white) political or military leaders in heroic portraits with black figures. The project of depicting the most powerful person in the world in the same way risks conveying the opposite message. Wiley’s Obama is a contradictory image in the America and the art world of this era. The portrait is an image of a hero of an oppressed race, like a portrait of Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, Obama is often associated with King: As the 2008 T-shirt had it, “Martin marched so Barack could run.” Yet President Obama was Martin Luther King with a world-annihilating nuclear arsenal and a sprawling system of internment facilities. It is hard, in this context, not to think of Wiley’s Obama as conveying something of the same message as the other paintings of presidents in the Portrait Gallery. As with James Reid Lambdin’s Zachary Taylor, for example, its subject is rendered as a hero: idealized, made classical. Both men appear implacable.

The Obama portrait, even if it is painted in the same style as Wiley’s previous works (or perhaps especially because it is), serves power in the most traditional way that art can—in just the way David’s portrait served Napoleon, portraying the emperor as he wished to be seen by the Europe he was in the process of conquering. The Wiley Obama participates in the tradition of street art celebrating cultural heroes and resistance leaders. At the same time, it participates in the tradition of the late Wang Guodong’s official portrait of Mao, which still looms over Tiananmen Square and appears in thousands of iterations all over the country. It takes political power and turns it mythological.

I would like to believe that Wiley thought hard about such matters before he accepted the commission and as he executed it. But if he did, I can’t read the results from the painting itself. Ultimately, it has settled comfortably into the Hall of Presidents since its sensational (for a painting) debut in February 2018, back when you had to wait in line to see it.

In Times Square in late September, Wiley previewed a large equestrian statue on a stone plinth, intended eventually for Richmond as an answer to its parade of Confederate generals along Monument Avenue. “Today,” Wiley said, “we say yes to something that looks like us.” That’s what people seem to be looking for in all media all the time: something that allows them to affirm themselves, understood as race/gender/sexuality congeries. In the Portrait Gallery, however, Barack also looks something like William Henry Harrison or Bill and Melinda Gates, who share the upstairs gallery space with LL and Michelle. Having perhaps less sheer power to convey, Sherald’s portrait is primarily about the former first lady’s dress, whose designer is credited on the card.

The audience on the days I visited in October was notably younger and blacker than the Portrait Gallery’s once tended to be. Visitors moved their way through the procession of dead white guys at speed, occasionally pausing for a selfie with William McKinley or Teddy Roosevelt. They were headed to the Wiley, of course, and gathered before it, though not in the sort of numbers it was pulling a year ago.

As you traverse the presidents at the Portrait Gallery, you traverse the art styles of the last few hundred years in attenuated or desiccated form. Often, in the 19th century, presidential portraitists were hired from or had trained overseas, where they learned their craft painting European aristocrats. Eliphalet Frazer Andrews’ Rutherford B. Hayes has a touch of the pre-Raphaelites; Anders Zorn’s Grover Cleveland has a whiff of impressionism, a bit bewitching (believe it or not) in the fundamentally charmless context. By the 1960s, when the United States had emerged as a center of world art rather than a provincial backwater, we start getting a flavor of the domestic and the contemporary in Elaine de Kooning’s abstract expressionist John Kennedy and Chuck Close’s disquieting Bill Clinton, which appears to be training its beady stare on the Wiley Obama as the latter looks away and tries not to notice. I haven’t gone in with a measuring tape, but I think the Close Clinton is the biggest work in the Hall of Presidents.

I imagine that I wasn’t the only one wondering where Donald Trump’s portrait will be installed. You make the hall of presidents merely by being president, and so far no one has been disgraced or #MeTooed out of it (though Chuck Close himself has been accused of sexual harassment). Trump’s natural spot would be opposite Obama, in confrontation but also in collaboration—because all these figures converge in the gallery into a single narrative, meant to move you as a solemn procession of great men.

And it is men, about which even the Portrait Gallery has a bad conscience. On the way in to the presidents, you get a group portrait of four female Supreme Court Justices (O’Connor, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan). They seem pleasant enough, though they have a bit of the quality of caricature. They dangle over the uncanny valley, as though they were achieved by projecting photographs onto the canvas and painting over them. Wiley’s Obama has the same effect. “He looks so real,” said one young woman to her companion as they took pictures before it. “Yeah. So, so real,” was the response, which may have been sarcastic. Regardless, the painting holds court, with people spread out before it in adoration.

The best actual painting might be Norman Rockwell’s Richard Nixon, who, amazingly, comes off as the friendliest and most easygoing presence in the whole space. Putting it mildly, that wasn’t the effect that Wiley was aiming for with his Obama, and there is no hint of mercy in that stare. The card next to the Nixon explains that Rockwell didn’t know how to approach the man, about whom he no doubt had very mixed feelings, and that he settled finally on straightforward flattery. Indeed, all these artists flattered their subjects, though perhaps none so transformationally as Rockwell.

The one rival in this regard is Stuart’s monumental Washington, who is portrayed as a noble classical statue, a chunk of roseate marble rather than a human body. Appropriately enough, Jean-Antoine Houdon’s ultra-familiar portrait bust sits whitely nearby. These images are so familiar that it’s impossible to truly see them. They function as civic emblems rather than works of art. Nevertheless, Rockwell’s Nixon and Stuart’s Washington make you wonder just how misleading the rest of the images also are. Portraits are part of the way we understand, and falsify, our history.

My hometown of Washington, D.C., is rich in presidential portraiture, from the flat to the statuesque, in paint and developing fluid and bronze and marble, in poetry and architecture. The noble countenances of our paramount political leaders preside over, or perhaps infest, the city named for America’s first president. The District of Columbia was in fact conceived as a sort of portrait: a late constructive project of the Founders, a sort of three-dimensional Constitution that one might stroll or ride through.

The people walking grimly back and forth on F Street outside the Portrait Gallery when I was there probably had some presidential portraits in their pockets or pocketbooks. These images have a direct cash value; they are legal tender, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America, for of course some of the works in the Portrait Gallery have ended up on our currency.

If the U.S. is printing money still in 50 years, Wiley’s Obama might be on the $20 bill. The Fed isn’t likely to cash the Close Clinton, however, both because of the style of the painting and the lifestyle of its subject. Many presidential portraits don’t end up burning a hole in our pockets; it’s hard not to be struck by the sequence of mediocrities between the peaks—the run from Van Buren to Buchanan, for example, and the post-Lincoln parade into the 20th century. Personally, I’m not overwhelmed by the litany from Truman to Trump, either.

Millard Fillmore does not appear particularly impressive. Neither does James Knox Polk, so the card next to his portrait does the work for him: “Driven and determined, Polk took office with a limited agenda, accomplished all of it, and left office, as he planned, after only one term.” We shall not see his like.

As David portrayed Napoleon with various emblems of power, Stuart gives Washington a sword, a modest throne (but still a throne), an elaborate silver inkwell, and some books (titled Constitution of the United States and American Revolution). There are classical pillars and a glimpse of sky. The general-turned-president makes a sweeping gesture with his right arm, welcoming the birth of a nation, as it were. The French emperor, in comparison, is at once grander in his full military regalia and more modest-looking, with his hand tucked Napoleonically into his waistcoat rather than sweeping the world like a radar. The sword is there, though, and the throneish chair.

Jefferson poses for his painting with a slightly sexy classical sculpture, no doubt French, but as time goes on, American presidents look less and less like European conquerors. Whereas the early visual language of republicanism was grandly classical, later presidents get stripped down to look more like ordinary (if prosperous) American citizens, though ones whose faces must somehow be made to convey authority.

John Quincy Adams, by George Caleb Bingham, sets the chastened tone of the generation after the Founders, a beautifully flat and direct approach that contrasts favorably with the grand gestures that preceded it and with some of those that followed. The relatively modest, friendly style still finds its proponents, as in the portraits of Jimmy Carter and the Bushes. But something tells me that Trump’s will be very grand, with just a touch of the absurd. Perhaps we can see previews in the works on display at Mar-a-Lago.

Washington B. Cooper’s portrait of Andrew Johnson seeks to convey power by sheer sternness of countenance. Its grim features take on some of the iconographic weight that was once conveyed by swords and classical columns. By the time you get to the Obama, however, the thronesque chair has returned. This is perhaps because Wiley—like the producers of the 2018 Black Panther movie—wants to convey the idea of a black king, or perhaps because he wants to parody the whole idea of kings. He needs also, in an official portrait, to illustrate that the president of the United States is a citizen, not a monarch. But despite the relative modesty of Obama’s suit, it’s the kingliness that comes through.

This dilemma has faced all the portraitists in some form: Their charge is to render a presidential face at once human and Olympian, both an ordinary American (straight from the log cabin, maybe) and a worthy element in an exalted pantheon, preferably suitable for coinage.

The purpose of a portrait is somewhere between verisimilitude to the subject and public diplomacy for the government of the United States. You’re casting an iconography into history: It’ll be in textbooks. The basic function of all these pictures is to establish the legitimacy of the presidency by direct visual evidence, as school groups mill around. The portrait of the dear leader has always been a daunting, complex task, the kind of commission that would make any artist a bit nervous, and its various contradictory demands account for the odd remoteness of the atmosphere in the presidential gallery.

The Wiley Obama definitely does not interrupt this atmosphere. But Alexander Gardner’s wonderfully intimate photograph of Abraham Lincoln from 1865 does. Gardner’s treatment of Lincoln opts for the ordinary human being, relieving the oppressively deified and rather boring ambiance of the galleries. He looks like he’s seen a lot.

The direct humanity of that picture is fully contradicted in D.C., though, on the other end of the National Mall. The colossal Lincoln enthroned at his memorial takes the place of Athena in an American Parthenon. Unveiled in 1922, Daniel Chester French’s statue of Honest Abe is 19 feet high and sits on an 11-foot pedestal. Its hands rest on marble fasces, bundles of rods that were an emblem of authority for the Romans and that were possibly used in executions.

They were also used symbolically by Napoleon and Mussolini. Fasces provides the root of the term fascism. Wiley’s Obama quite consciously plays with the elements of grand portraiture. It might even be construed as a critique thereof, given the rest of his oeuvre. It cannot exactly be a critique, however, if it is also an official presidential portrait, whose very reason for existing is to exalt the subject in our collective memory. This is an excruciating contradiction.

In an argument or speech, a contradiction must be refuted. Embodied in a painting, it could conceivably be enriching, setting off verbal disputes wherein the contradictions might be worked and worried, bit by bit. But like all presidential portraiture, this painting is not exactly a work of art. This is true even if every other work by Kehinde Wiley is art, and even if the Obama portrait could be art in another context.

Wiley’s Obama is not intended, ultimately, to be open to interpretation. In Washington, D.C., the pictures and statues and monuments and money come pre-interpreted—”overdetermined,” as theorists put it—saturated with official meanings, embedded in official histories, imprinted on schoolchildren. Wiley is going to receive that sort of silver-dollar immortality, but he’s going to have to accept the accompanying demotion of his most famous work from the realm of art as well.

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On the Money: Presidential Portraiture and Power in D.C.

Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama is in various respects quite different from the procession of presidential countenances in the National Portrait Gallery that you must traverse to get to it.

For one thing, it’s more popular with museum-goers. For another, it’s the only one that’s a picture of, and the only one that’s a picture by, a black person. And it feels very much of its moment—post-postmodern, we might say. Wiley’s complex repertoire of techniques and meanings—figurative, collage-like, unrelentingly concerned with identity politics, stylistically eclectic but also coherent—is a pretty good summary of where art is now.

Despite the nowness, however, the Obama portrait also serves the same function as Gilbert Stuart’s full-length George Washington: rendering a person into a symbol of state power.

Wiley’s pre-presidential works criticized inequalities and hierarchies of power as well as the way such hierarchies are frozen into the history of art. His 2005 painting Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps is a pointed critique of Jacques-Louis David’s heroic, neoclassical take on the same subject matter. The French emperor is replaced in the familiar equestrian composition with a black man.

Upstairs at the Portrait Gallery, near Amy Sherald’s image of Michelle Obama, is a huge Wiley painting of LL Cool J enthroned, almost photoshopped over a rococo wallpaper in red and gold. It has a dynamic and amusing quality; Wiley is an extremely intense and conscious colorist. His Obama is, in comparison, frozen in his dignity, given a muted, hieratic treatment that suggests a medieval Madonna—though the 44th president is sporting a nice watch and features that pop into three dimensions, much like Cool J’s, under the auspices of Wiley’s dramatic, hyperreal modeling.

It’s one thing to depict rappers and athletes with the triumphal dignity normally reserved for presidents, or to replace oppressive (and white) political or military leaders in heroic portraits with black figures. The project of depicting the most powerful person in the world in the same way risks conveying the opposite message. Wiley’s Obama is a contradictory image in the America and the art world of this era. The portrait is an image of a hero of an oppressed race, like a portrait of Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, Obama is often associated with King: As the 2008 T-shirt had it, “Martin marched so Barack could run.” Yet President Obama was Martin Luther King with a world-annihilating nuclear arsenal and a sprawling system of internment facilities. It is hard, in this context, not to think of Wiley’s Obama as conveying something of the same message as the other paintings of presidents in the Portrait Gallery. As with James Reid Lambdin’s Zachary Taylor, for example, its subject is rendered as a hero: idealized, made classical. Both men appear implacable.

The Obama portrait, even if it is painted in the same style as Wiley’s previous works (or perhaps especially because it is), serves power in the most traditional way that art can—in just the way David’s portrait served Napoleon, portraying the emperor as he wished to be seen by the Europe he was in the process of conquering. The Wiley Obama participates in the tradition of street art celebrating cultural heroes and resistance leaders. At the same time, it participates in the tradition of the late Wang Guodong’s official portrait of Mao, which still looms over Tiananmen Square and appears in thousands of iterations all over the country. It takes political power and turns it mythological.

I would like to believe that Wiley thought hard about such matters before he accepted the commission and as he executed it. But if he did, I can’t read the results from the painting itself. Ultimately, it has settled comfortably into the Hall of Presidents since its sensational (for a painting) debut in February 2018, back when you had to wait in line to see it.

In Times Square in late September, Wiley previewed a large equestrian statue on a stone plinth, intended eventually for Richmond as an answer to its parade of Confederate generals along Monument Avenue. “Today,” Wiley said, “we say yes to something that looks like us.” That’s what people seem to be looking for in all media all the time: something that allows them to affirm themselves, understood as race/gender/sexuality congeries. In the Portrait Gallery, however, Barack also looks something like William Henry Harrison or Bill and Melinda Gates, who share the upstairs gallery space with LL and Michelle. Having perhaps less sheer power to convey, Sherald’s portrait is primarily about the former first lady’s dress, whose designer is credited on the card.

The audience on the days I visited in October was notably younger and blacker than the Portrait Gallery’s once tended to be. Visitors moved their way through the procession of dead white guys at speed, occasionally pausing for a selfie with William McKinley or Teddy Roosevelt. They were headed to the Wiley, of course, and gathered before it, though not in the sort of numbers it was pulling a year ago.

As you traverse the presidents at the Portrait Gallery, you traverse the art styles of the last few hundred years in attenuated or desiccated form. Often, in the 19th century, presidential portraitists were hired from or had trained overseas, where they learned their craft painting European aristocrats. Eliphalet Frazer Andrews’ Rutherford B. Hayes has a touch of the pre-Raphaelites; Anders Zorn’s Grover Cleveland has a whiff of impressionism, a bit bewitching (believe it or not) in the fundamentally charmless context. By the 1960s, when the United States had emerged as a center of world art rather than a provincial backwater, we start getting a flavor of the domestic and the contemporary in Elaine de Kooning’s abstract expressionist John Kennedy and Chuck Close’s disquieting Bill Clinton, which appears to be training its beady stare on the Wiley Obama as the latter looks away and tries not to notice. I haven’t gone in with a measuring tape, but I think the Close Clinton is the biggest work in the Hall of Presidents.

I imagine that I wasn’t the only one wondering where Donald Trump’s portrait will be installed. You make the hall of presidents merely by being president, and so far no one has been disgraced or #MeTooed out of it (though Chuck Close himself has been accused of sexual harassment). Trump’s natural spot would be opposite Obama, in confrontation but also in collaboration—because all these figures converge in the gallery into a single narrative, meant to move you as a solemn procession of great men.

And it is men, about which even the Portrait Gallery has a bad conscience. On the way in to the presidents, you get a group portrait of four female Supreme Court Justices (O’Connor, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan). They seem pleasant enough, though they have a bit of the quality of caricature. They dangle over the uncanny valley, as though they were achieved by projecting photographs onto the canvas and painting over them. Wiley’s Obama has the same effect. “He looks so real,” said one young woman to her companion as they took pictures before it. “Yeah. So, so real,” was the response, which may have been sarcastic. Regardless, the painting holds court, with people spread out before it in adoration.

The best actual painting might be Norman Rockwell’s Richard Nixon, who, amazingly, comes off as the friendliest and most easygoing presence in the whole space. Putting it mildly, that wasn’t the effect that Wiley was aiming for with his Obama, and there is no hint of mercy in that stare. The card next to the Nixon explains that Rockwell didn’t know how to approach the man, about whom he no doubt had very mixed feelings, and that he settled finally on straightforward flattery. Indeed, all these artists flattered their subjects, though perhaps none so transformationally as Rockwell.

The one rival in this regard is Stuart’s monumental Washington, who is portrayed as a noble classical statue, a chunk of roseate marble rather than a human body. Appropriately enough, Jean-Antoine Houdon’s ultra-familiar portrait bust sits whitely nearby. These images are so familiar that it’s impossible to truly see them. They function as civic emblems rather than works of art. Nevertheless, Rockwell’s Nixon and Stuart’s Washington make you wonder just how misleading the rest of the images also are. Portraits are part of the way we understand, and falsify, our history.

My hometown of Washington, D.C., is rich in presidential portraiture, from the flat to the statuesque, in paint and developing fluid and bronze and marble, in poetry and architecture. The noble countenances of our paramount political leaders preside over, or perhaps infest, the city named for America’s first president. The District of Columbia was in fact conceived as a sort of portrait: a late constructive project of the Founders, a sort of three-dimensional Constitution that one might stroll or ride through.

The people walking grimly back and forth on F Street outside the Portrait Gallery when I was there probably had some presidential portraits in their pockets or pocketbooks. These images have a direct cash value; they are legal tender, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America, for of course some of the works in the Portrait Gallery have ended up on our currency.

If the U.S. is printing money still in 50 years, Wiley’s Obama might be on the $20 bill. The Fed isn’t likely to cash the Close Clinton, however, both because of the style of the painting and the lifestyle of its subject. Many presidential portraits don’t end up burning a hole in our pockets; it’s hard not to be struck by the sequence of mediocrities between the peaks—the run from Van Buren to Buchanan, for example, and the post-Lincoln parade into the 20th century. Personally, I’m not overwhelmed by the litany from Truman to Trump, either.

Millard Fillmore does not appear particularly impressive. Neither does James Knox Polk, so the card next to his portrait does the work for him: “Driven and determined, Polk took office with a limited agenda, accomplished all of it, and left office, as he planned, after only one term.” We shall not see his like.

As David portrayed Napoleon with various emblems of power, Stuart gives Washington a sword, a modest throne (but still a throne), an elaborate silver inkwell, and some books (titled Constitution of the United States and American Revolution). There are classical pillars and a glimpse of sky. The general-turned-president makes a sweeping gesture with his right arm, welcoming the birth of a nation, as it were. The French emperor, in comparison, is at once grander in his full military regalia and more modest-looking, with his hand tucked Napoleonically into his waistcoat rather than sweeping the world like a radar. The sword is there, though, and the throneish chair.

Jefferson poses for his painting with a slightly sexy classical sculpture, no doubt French, but as time goes on, American presidents look less and less like European conquerors. Whereas the early visual language of republicanism was grandly classical, later presidents get stripped down to look more like ordinary (if prosperous) American citizens, though ones whose faces must somehow be made to convey authority.

John Quincy Adams, by George Caleb Bingham, sets the chastened tone of the generation after the Founders, a beautifully flat and direct approach that contrasts favorably with the grand gestures that preceded it and with some of those that followed. The relatively modest, friendly style still finds its proponents, as in the portraits of Jimmy Carter and the Bushes. But something tells me that Trump’s will be very grand, with just a touch of the absurd. Perhaps we can see previews in the works on display at Mar-a-Lago.

Washington B. Cooper’s portrait of Andrew Johnson seeks to convey power by sheer sternness of countenance. Its grim features take on some of the iconographic weight that was once conveyed by swords and classical columns. By the time you get to the Obama, however, the thronesque chair has returned. This is perhaps because Wiley—like the producers of the 2018 Black Panther movie—wants to convey the idea of a black king, or perhaps because he wants to parody the whole idea of kings. He needs also, in an official portrait, to illustrate that the president of the United States is a citizen, not a monarch. But despite the relative modesty of Obama’s suit, it’s the kingliness that comes through.

This dilemma has faced all the portraitists in some form: Their charge is to render a presidential face at once human and Olympian, both an ordinary American (straight from the log cabin, maybe) and a worthy element in an exalted pantheon, preferably suitable for coinage.

The purpose of a portrait is somewhere between verisimilitude to the subject and public diplomacy for the government of the United States. You’re casting an iconography into history: It’ll be in textbooks. The basic function of all these pictures is to establish the legitimacy of the presidency by direct visual evidence, as school groups mill around. The portrait of the dear leader has always been a daunting, complex task, the kind of commission that would make any artist a bit nervous, and its various contradictory demands account for the odd remoteness of the atmosphere in the presidential gallery.

The Wiley Obama definitely does not interrupt this atmosphere. But Alexander Gardner’s wonderfully intimate photograph of Abraham Lincoln from 1865 does. Gardner’s treatment of Lincoln opts for the ordinary human being, relieving the oppressively deified and rather boring ambiance of the galleries. He looks like he’s seen a lot.

The direct humanity of that picture is fully contradicted in D.C., though, on the other end of the National Mall. The colossal Lincoln enthroned at his memorial takes the place of Athena in an American Parthenon. Unveiled in 1922, Daniel Chester French’s statue of Honest Abe is 19 feet high and sits on an 11-foot pedestal. Its hands rest on marble fasces, bundles of rods that were an emblem of authority for the Romans and that were possibly used in executions.

They were also used symbolically by Napoleon and Mussolini. Fasces provides the root of the term fascism. Wiley’s Obama quite consciously plays with the elements of grand portraiture. It might even be construed as a critique thereof, given the rest of his oeuvre. It cannot exactly be a critique, however, if it is also an official presidential portrait, whose very reason for existing is to exalt the subject in our collective memory. This is an excruciating contradiction.

In an argument or speech, a contradiction must be refuted. Embodied in a painting, it could conceivably be enriching, setting off verbal disputes wherein the contradictions might be worked and worried, bit by bit. But like all presidential portraiture, this painting is not exactly a work of art. This is true even if every other work by Kehinde Wiley is art, and even if the Obama portrait could be art in another context.

Wiley’s Obama is not intended, ultimately, to be open to interpretation. In Washington, D.C., the pictures and statues and monuments and money come pre-interpreted—”overdetermined,” as theorists put it—saturated with official meanings, embedded in official histories, imprinted on schoolchildren. Wiley is going to receive that sort of silver-dollar immortality, but he’s going to have to accept the accompanying demotion of his most famous work from the realm of art as well.

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Where Have You Gone, Smedley Butler? The Last General To Criticize US Imperialism

Where Have You Gone, Smedley Butler? The Last General To Criticize US Imperialism

Authored by Danny Sjursen via TomDispatch.com,

There once lived an odd little man – five feet nine inches tall and barely 140 pounds sopping wet – who rocked the lecture circuit and the nation itself. For all but a few activist insiders and scholars, U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler is now lost to history. Yet more than a century ago, this strange contradiction of a man would become a national war hero, celebrated in pulp adventure novels, and then, 30 years later, as one of this country’s most prominent antiwar and anti-imperialist dissidents.

Raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and educated in Quaker (pacifist) schools, the son of an influential congressman, he would end up serving in nearly all of America’s “Banana Wars” from 1898 to 1931. Wounded in combat and a rare recipient of two Congressional Medals of Honor, he would retire as the youngest, most decorated major general in the Marines.

A teenage officer and a certified hero during an international intervention in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900, he would later become a constabulary leader of the Haitian gendarme, the police chief of Philadelphia (while on an approved absence from the military), and a proponent of Marine Corps football. In more standard fashion, he would serve in battle as well as in what might today be labeled peacekeepingcounterinsurgency, and advise-and-assist missions in Cuba, China, the Philippines, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, France, and China (again). While he showed early signs of skepticism about some of those imperial campaigns or, as they were sardonically called by critics at the time, “Dollar Diplomacy” operations — that is, military campaigns waged on behalf of U.S. corporate business interests — until he retired he remained the prototypical loyal Marine.

But after retirement, Smedley Butler changed his tune. He began to blast the imperialist foreign policy and interventionist bullying in which he’d only recently played such a prominent part. Eventually, in 1935 during the Great Depression, in what became a classic passage in his memoir, which he titled “War Is a Racket,” he wrote:

“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service… And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the Bankers.”

Seemingly overnight, the famous war hero transformed himself into an equally acclaimed antiwar speaker and activist in a politically turbulent era. Those were, admittedly, uncommonly anti-interventionist years, in which veterans and politicians alike promoted what (for America, at least) had been fringe ideas. This was, after all, the height of what later pro-war interventionists would pejoratively label American “isolationism.”

Nonetheless, Butler was unique (for that moment and certainly for our own) in his unapologetic amenability to left-wing domestic politics and materialist critiques of American militarism. In the last years of his life, he would face increasing criticism from his former admirer, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the military establishment, and the interventionist press. This was particularly true after Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Poland and later France. Given the severity of the Nazi threat to mankind, hindsight undoubtedly proved Butler’s virulent opposition to U.S. intervention in World War II wrong.

Nevertheless, the long-term erasure of his decade of antiwar and anti-imperialist activism and the assumption that all his assertions were irrelevant has proven historically deeply misguided. In the wake of America’s brief but bloody entry into the First World War, the skepticism of Butler (and a significant part of an entire generation of veterans) about intervention in a new European bloodbath should have been understandable. Above all, however, his critique of American militarism of an earlier imperial era in the Pacific and in Latin America remains prescient and all too timely today, especially coming as it did from one of the most decorated and high-ranking general officers of his time. (In the era of the never-ending war on terror, such a phenomenon is quite literally inconceivable.)

Smedley Butler’s Marine Corps and the military of his day was, in certain ways, a different sort of organization than today’s highly professionalized armed forces. History rarely repeats itself, not in a literal sense anyway. Still, there are some disturbing similarities between the careers of Butler and today’s generation of forever-war fighters. All of them served repeated tours of duty in (mostly) unsanctioned wars around the world. Butler’s conflicts may have stretched west from Haiti across the oceans to China, whereas today’s generals mostly lead missions from West Africa east to Central Asia, but both sets of conflicts seemed perpetual in their day and were motivated by barely concealed economic and imperial interests.

Nonetheless, whereas this country’s imperial campaigns of the first third of the twentieth century generated a Smedley Butler, the hyper-interventionism of the first decades of this century hasn’t produced a single even faintly comparable figure. Not one. Zero. Zilch. Why that is matters and illustrates much about the U.S. military establishment and contemporary national culture, none of it particularly encouraging.

Why No Antiwar Generals

When Smedley Butler retired in 1931, he was one of three Marine Corps major generals holding a rank just below that of only the Marine commandant and the Army chief of staff. Today, with about 900 generals and admirals currently serving on active duty, including 24 major generals in the Marine Corps alone, and with scores of flag officers retiring annually, not a single one has offered genuine public opposition to almost 19 years worth of ill-advised, remarkably unsuccessful American wars. As for the most senior officers, the 40 four-star generals and admirals whose vocal antimilitarism might make the biggest splash, there are more of them today than there were even at the height of the Vietnam War, although the active military is now about half the size it was then. Adulated as many of them may be, however, not one qualifies as a public critic of today’s failing wars.

Instead, the principal patriotic dissent against those terror wars has come from retired colonels, lieutenant colonels, and occasionally more junior officers (like me), as well as enlisted service members. Not that there are many of us to speak of either. I consider it disturbing (and so should you) that I personally know just about every one of the retired military figures who has spoken out against America’s forever wars.

The big three are Secretary of State Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson; Vietnam veteran and onetime West Point history instructor, retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich; and Iraq veteran and Afghan War whistleblower, retired Lieutenant Colonel Danny Davis. All three have proven to be genuine public servants, poignant voices, and — on some level — cherished personal mentors. For better or worse, however, none carry the potential clout of a retired senior theater commander or prominent four-star general offering the same critiques.

Something must account for veteran dissenters topping out at the level of colonel. Obviously, there are personal reasons why individual officers chose early retirement or didn’t make general or admiral. Still, the system for selecting flag officers should raise at least a few questions when it comes to the lack of antiwar voices among retired commanders. In fact, a selection committee of top generals and admirals is appointed each year to choose the next colonels to earn their first star. And perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that, according to numerous reports, “the members of this board are inclined, if not explicitly motivated, to seek candidates in their own image — officers whose careers look like theirs.” At a minimal level, such a system is hardly built to foster free thinkers, no less breed potential dissidents.

Consider it an irony of sorts that this system first received criticism in our era of forever wars when General David Petraeus, then commanding the highly publicized “surge” in Iraq, had to leave that theater of war in 2007 to serve as the chair of that selection committee. The reason: he wanted to ensure that a twice passed-over colonel, a protégé of his — future Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster — earned his star.

Mainstream national security analysts reported on this affair at the time as if it were a major scandal, since most of them were convinced that Petraeus and his vaunted counterinsurgency or “COINdinista” protégés and their “new” war-fighting doctrine had the magic touch that would turn around the failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, Petraeus tried to apply those very tactics twice — once in each country — as did acolytes of his later, and you know the results of that.

But here’s the point: it took an eleventh-hour intervention by America’s most acclaimed general of that moment to get new stars handed out to prominent colonels who had, until then, been stonewalled by Cold War-bred flag officers because they were promoting different (but also strangely familiar) tactics in this country’s wars. Imagine, then, how likely it would be for such a leadership system to produce genuine dissenters with stars of any serious sort, no less a crew of future Smedley Butlers.

At the roots of this system lay the obsession of the American officer corps with “professionalization” after the Vietnam War debacle. This first manifested itself in a decision to ditch the citizen-soldier tradition, end the draft, and create an “all-volunteer force.” The elimination of conscription, as predicted by critics at the time, created an ever-growing civil-military divide, even as it increased public apathy regarding America’s wars by erasing whatever “skin in the game” most citizens had.

More than just helping to squelch civilian antiwar activism, though, the professionalization of the military, and of the officer corps in particular, ensured that any future Smedley Butlers would be left in the dust (or in retirement at the level of lieutenant colonel or colonel) by a system geared to producing faux warrior-monks. Typical of such figures is current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley. He may speak gruffly and look like a man with a head of his own, but typically he’s turned out to be just another yes-man for another war-power-hungry president.

One group of generals, however, reportedly now does have it out for President Trump — but not because they’re opposed to endless war. Rather, they reportedly think that The Donald doesn’t “listen enough to military advice” on, you know, how to wage war forever and a day.

What Would Smedley Butler Think Today?

In his years of retirement, Smedley Butler regularly focused on the economic component of America’s imperial war policies. He saw clearly that the conflicts he had fought in, the elections he had helped rig, the coups he had supported, and the constabularies he had formed and empowered in faraway lands had all served the interests of U.S. corporate investors. Though less overtly the case today, this still remains a reality in America’s post-9/11 conflicts, even on occasion embarrassingly so (as when the Iraqi ministry of oil was essentially the only public building protected by American troops as looters tore apart the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in the post-invasion chaos of April 2003). Mostly, however, such influence plays out far more subtly than that, both abroad and here at home where those wars help maintain the record profits of the top weapons makers of the military-industrial complex.

That beast, first identified by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is now on steroids as American commanders in retirement regularly move directly from the military onto the boards of the giant defense contractors, a reality which only contributes to the dearth of Butlers in the military retiree community. For all the corruption of his time, the Pentagon didn’t yet exist and the path from the military to, say, United Fruit Company, Standard Oil, or other typical corporate giants of that moment had yet to be normalized for retiring generals and admirals. Imagine what Butler would have had to say about the modern phenomenon of the “revolving door” in Washington.

Of course, he served in a very different moment, one in which military funding and troop levels were still contested in Congress. As a longtime critic of capitalist excesses who wrote for leftist publications and supported the Socialist Party candidate in the 1936 presidential elections, Butler would have found today’s nearly trillion-dollar annual defense budgets beyond belief. What the grizzled former Marine long ago identified as a treacherous nexus between warfare and capital “in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives” seems to have reached its natural end point in the twenty-first century. Case in point: the record (and still rising) “defense” spending of the present moment, including — to please a president — the creation of a whole new military service aimed at the full-scale militarization of space.

Sadly enough, in the age of Trump, as numerous polls demonstrate, the U.S. military is the only public institution Americans still truly trust. Under the circumstances, how useful it would be to have a high-ranking, highly decorated, charismatic retired general in the Butler mold galvanize an apathetic public around those forever wars of ours. Unfortunately, the likelihood of that is practically nil, given the military system of our moment.

Of course, Butler didn’t exactly end his life triumphantly. In late May 1940, having lost 25 pounds due to illness and exhaustion — and demonized as a leftist, isolationist crank but still maintaining a whirlwind speaking schedule — he checked himself into the Philadelphia Navy Yard Hospital for a “rest.” He died there, probably of some sort of cancer, four weeks later. Working himself to death in his 10-year retirement and second career as a born-again antiwar activist, however, might just have constituted the very best service that the two-time Medal of Honor winner could have given the nation he loved to the very end.

Someone of his credibility, character, and candor is needed more than ever today. Unfortunately, this military generation is unlikely to produce such a figure. In retirement, Butler himself boldly confessed that, “like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical…”

Today, generals don’t seem to have a thought of their own even in retirement. And more’s the pity…


Tyler Durden

Sat, 02/22/2020 – 23:30

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3c355BI Tyler Durden

Visualizing The Cost And Composition Of America’s Nuclear Weapons Arsenal

Visualizing The Cost And Composition Of America’s Nuclear Weapons Arsenal

The American nuclear weapons arsenal is nowhere near its 1960s peak, but, as Visual Capitalist’s Nick Routley details below, there are still thousands of warheads in the stockpile today.

The U.S. nuclear program is comprised of a complex network of facilities and weaponry, and of course the actual warheads themselves. Let’s look at the location of warheads, how they’re deployed, and the costs associated with running and refurbishing an aging nuclear program.

Let’s launch into the data.

Nuclear Weapons Map

As of 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense maintained an estimated stockpile of 3,800 nuclear warheads for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. Roughly 1,300 warheads are actually deployed, while most of the remaining inventory is either held in reserve (as a hedge against “technical or geopolitical surprises”) or is destined to be dismantled.

These weapons are thought to be stored across 11 U.S. states, with the vast majority residing in New Mexico, Washington, and Georgia.

Source

Over 1,500 of the warheads in New Mexico are retired and are destined to be dismantled at the Pantex facility in Texas.

The United States also maintains a small amount of nuclear inventory in and around Europe as well. Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base likely holds the biggest supply of warheads outside the U.S., and a few weapons are also located in storage vaults in Belgium, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Deployment Data

Nuclear warheads, while devastatingly powerful, are nothing without a delivery mechanism. In simple terms, there are three primary methods for actually launching missiles: Silos, bombers, and submarines.

The most common deployment of nuclear weapons is under the sea. The U.S. Navy is thought to operate 14 ballistic missile submarines, with each carrying as many as 24 Trident II missiles.

Missile silos are not as popular as they once were, but the U.S. Air Force still maintains 400 silo-based missiles, and another 50 are kept “warm” in the event of an emergency.

America’s Nuclear Weapons Budget

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is required to project the 10-year costs of nuclear forces every two years.

Though much of the program is shrouded in secrecy, the budget below provides an overview of the costs of running America’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

Costs in the budget are split between the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Defense (DoD), which handle different parts of the process.

On one hand, the DoD takes care of the delivery systems for warheads. Those submarines, bombers, and missile silos spread around the country will add up to a projected $249 billion in costs over the next decade. Another large portion of the DoD budget accounts for operational aspects of the program, such as funding facilities, control, and early warning systems.

On the other hand, the DoE is responsible for building and maintaining the actual warheads themselves. The U.S. stopped producing new warheads in the 1990s, but all that changed last year.

Back in the Bomb Business

Generally, we think of nuclear weapons stockpiles as a sunsetting resource, slowly being dismantled; however, since the treaty that ended the arms race collapsed in mid-2019, the flood gates may be opening once again.

New warheads are reportedly rolling off the production line, and in the beginning of this year, Lockheed Martin was tapped by the U.S. Navy to manufacture low yield submarine-based nuclear missiles.

The development of lower yield nuclear weapons appears to be a response to efforts by Russia to modernize their arsenal.

Recent Russian statements […] appear to lower the threshold for Moscow’s first-use of nuclear weapons.

– Nuclear Posture Review (2018)

With this new weapons development, the U.S. is aiming to create “tailored response options” to any potential conflict. By eliminating the perceived advantages that adversaries may have, the U.S. is hoping to lower the likelihood of a nuclear conflict.

Arms control advocates warn that new lower-yield warheads entering production will lower the threshold for a nuclear conflict.

While advocates and critics of nuclear weapons debate the merits of new weapons, we appear to be entering a new era of weapons proliferation.


Tyler Durden

Sat, 02/22/2020 – 23:00

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/32jEvjr Tyler Durden

Fat Women Are Not A National Priority

Fat Women Are Not A National Priority

Authored by Eric Margolis via The Unz Review,

Good work, Democrats! In the Las Vegas debate, you blasted every target but Donald Trump. Instead of quivering in his Gucci loafers, the man who would be king was left dancing on air.

The man who should have been king, newcomer Mike Bloomberg, was left looking like a beaten-up cigar store Indian. He had not prepped for the debate and failed to dodge the obvious incoming missile attacks on him launched by a hissing Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

Many veteran Republicans fear that TV promoter Trump will steamroll Warren, Buttigieg, Biden and Amy Klobuchar. They may be right. Trump had to be delighted by the no-prisoners Democratic debate that bloodied his opponents before he could even get to them. Bloomberg was totally unprepared for the savage attacks launched against him. He looked like a neophyte suffering from camera fright.

I got a good read on Bloomberg when I had an intimate dinner with him some years ago. Rather than the stiff, unsmiling man we saw on TV in Las Vegas, in real life Bloomberg is clearly brilliant yet understated, charming, and endowed with a sharp sense of humor and quick wit.

Bernie Sanders, who has three homes, blasted Bloomberg for being ‘rich.’ This is a big sin to the Democrats who, like Hillary Clinton, pocketed millions in political support from big banks, unions and businesses under the cover of night or via bogus speaking fees and her fake foundation – a scam emulated by Trump.

The deeply corrupt Democratic National Committee, controlled by Hillary Clinton, rigged the vote that blocked Bernie Sanders during the last election. When news of this scandal emerged, Hillary kicked off the anti-Russian hysteria to divert attention from her chicanery.

Yes, Bloomberg may be the 9th or 10th richest man in the world. But his net worth comes from ownership of one of our most successful and reliable financial news organizations that he built up from nothing, and that employs important numbers of men and women. The use of Bloomberg terminals saves forests of trees.

Ignore Elizabeth Warren’s cheap shots about women being called names like ‘horse-faced lesbians’ or ‘fat’ at his firm. Many men speak this way to one-another in casual talk. Women often do the same regarding men. The answer to this is to totally segregate the sexes, as in Saudi Arabia. Trying to whip up a war of the sexes is not going to make angry Elizabeth Warren president. She should stick to her commendable work with banking and voting rights.

It’s pretty clear after the shootout in Vegas that Joe Biden has used up his last chance. Black voters and unions won’t save him. He looked old and very tired. But not as tired or off the mark as Mike Bloomberg. By contrast Bernie looked old, to be sure, but was full of beans.

As a foreign affairs specialist, what really dismayed me was that there was only one significant mention of international policy. That’s when the abrasive, loud-mouthed Sen. Amy Klobuchar could not remember the name of the president of Mexico. For God’s sake, she on a senate committee that deals with Mexico.

While our presidential debate focuses on overweight women and health care, the US and Russia have come terrifyingly close to open war in the Mideast.

But barely any mention of this in the debates. Trump and his big money men from New York and Las Vegas are trying to push Iran into an air war. The US is seeking to overthrow the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and Iran. Clashes between China and the US are a major danger. Former defense chief Sam Nunn warns the US and Russia are closer to a nuclear conflict than any time since the 1960’s Cuban missile crisis. No matter.

Americans want entertainers for their made-for-TV politicians. Poor, dignified Mr. Bloomberg didn’t know he would face professional actors, not legislators.


Tyler Durden

Sat, 02/22/2020 – 22:30

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2HOUaha Tyler Durden