Thursday, April 30, 2020

Things To Come: Aerial Mass Surveillance

In "Decision He'll Come To Regret," Judge Allows Warrantless Aerial Surveillance Of Baltimore

For many years we've been documenting the developments surrounding spy planes over the skies of the Baltimore metro area, monitoring residents as the region has become the testing ground for the surveillance state. 
In early April, under cover of the coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore City's Board of Estimates approved the contract to resurrect the spy plane program. 
Now it appears three planes have been cleared for takeoff by a federal judge on Friday (April 24). 
According to AP News, US District Judge Richard Bennett in Baltimore on Friday ruled against a grassroots think tank and local community organizing groups. They asked the judge to ground the three planes from taking off, indicating the surveillance program violates the First and Fourth Amendment rights of residents. Flights are expected to begin next week.
"The United States Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit have long upheld the use of far more intrusive warrantless surveillance techniques than the (Aerial Investigation Research) program," Bennett wrote in an opinion rejecting the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
The spy plane program will fly the planes equipped with large optical sensors that would be typically mounted on a warplane. Each sensor can surveil up to 32 square miles, effectively covering the entire city and monitor everyone and everything that moves. 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represents the think tank and community groups that filed the federal lawsuit to prevent the spy program from lifting off. They said the planes severely infringe on the rights of residents and could lead to random searches and the proliferation of the surveillance state. 

"It is tragic and unacceptable that the failures of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), and the city's long-term unwillingness to address the root causes of crime, have now led to the decision to impose the most far-reaching mass surveillance program in American history here in Baltimore," said David Rocah, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland. 
"If allowed to stand, this ruling is a decision that the city, and the country, will 
The program will be administered by contractor Persistent Surveillance Systems that will use aerial imagery combined with city-operated street-level cameras, license plate readers, and a gunshot detection system to solve crimes.
come to regret," Rocah said. 
As the pandemic ravages America and crashes the economy into depression, the survivance state is quickly being erected. You're beginning to get an understanding of what a post-corona world will look like, that is, an environment where Big Brother is watching you from the skies and on street-level cameras. 

Syria Accuses Israel Of Carrying Out Airstrikes In Syria-Held Golan Heights

Syria reports Israeli airstrikes in Syrian-held Golan Heights

Syria accused Israeli helicopters of carrying out airstrikes in the Syrian-held Golan heights in the early hours of Friday morning.
“From the occupied Golan airspace, enemy Israeli helicopters attacked positions in the southern region with several missiles,” Syrian state news agency SANA said shortly after midnight.
SANA said the missile strike in the area of Quneitra caused “only material damage.” It did not report any casualties or specify what was targeted.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, confirmed the strikes, saying they targeted military positions of Iranian forces and pro-Iran militias.
The attack follows a series of strikes on Iran-linked forces in Syria in recent weeks.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday appeared to confirm that Israel was behind an airstrike against pro-Iranian forces in Syria on Monday, saying the military was working to drive Tehran out of the country.
“We have moved from blocking Iran’s entrenchment in Syria to forcing it out of there, and we will not stop,” Bennett said in a statement.
“We will not allow more strategic threats to grow just across our borders without taking action,” he said. “We will continue to take the fight to the enemy’s territory.”
The airstrike early Monday on a military airfield outside Damascus killed four pro-Iranian fighters, according to the Observatory for Human Rights. Three Syrian civilians were also reportedly killed by shrapnel, though it was not clear if the fragments came from the incoming missiles or Syria’s air defenses.
The Observatory said a number of Iranian-linked command centers were destroyed in the attack.
Bennett did not explicitly confirm Israel’s involvement in the airstrike, though his comments were seen as a clear hint to that effect.
A day before the strike, Bennett also appeared to signal that one was forthcoming, telling listeners in an interview on the 103FM radio station on Sunday to “keep your ears open” for news about Israeli actions against Iran in Syria.
“We’ve gone from a policy of blocking [Iran] to pushing it out,” Bennett added.
Israeli military officials have warned that acknowledging such strikes adds pressure on Iran and its proxies to retaliate in order to save face.
Jerusalem says Iran’s presence in Syria, where it is fighting in support of President Bashar Assad, is a threat, as Tehran seeks to establish a permanent foothold along Israel’s northern borders. Israel has also threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from providing the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group with advanced weaponry, specifically, precision-guided missiles.
Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably Hezbollah, but the Israel Defense Forces has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.
Last week Syria accused Israel of hitting targets near Homs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the targets were “military posts for Iranian militias in the Palmyra desert.”
On April 15, a car driven by several Hezbollah operatives was targeted in a strike attributed to Israel as it made its way from Syria toward Lebanon. The passengers in the vehicle escaped after an apparent warning shot was fired next to the car.
A private Israeli intelligence firm on Thursday released images showing the aftermath of the Monday airstrike against Iran-backed forces in Syria that was attributed to Israel. The attack targeted a warehouse outside of Palmyra and the entrance to an underground facility near Damascus, according to the satellite images.

California Gov. Orders All CA Beaches Closed After Crowds Last Weekend

Gov. Newsom Orders All CA Beaches Closed After Crowds Formed Last Weekend


We all remember those images of Florida beaches that were packed with people even as the state was starting to issue stay-at-home orders last month.

Something similar happened in California over the weekend and it has created a battle between local government and the governor. Specifically, it happened in Orange County not far from my house. We had a very warm weekend and this is what Newport Beach looked like.

In response to those images Gov. Newsom to make a lengthy statement Monday criticizing beach goers, specifically those in Orange County and Ventura County. The video of his statement is below but he said in part, “I want to just confront the topic that is top of mind and those are the images we saw over the weekend, the images down in Orange County and Ventura County on our beaches,” he said. He continued, “Those images are an example of what not to see, people, what not to do if we’re going to make the meaningful progress that we’ve made in the last few weeks extend into the next number of weeks.” He added, “This virus doesn’t take the weekends off.”

Despite being called out by the governor, Newport Beach officials voted the following day to keep the beaches open. That was apparently the last straw for Gov. Newsom who made plans to announce Thursday that all beaches and state parks will be shut down as of Friday:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will order all beaches and state parks closed starting Friday after people thronged the seashore last weekend despite his social distancing order that aims to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But that’s far from the end of this. Yesterday an NPR/Marist poll showed that a slight majority of Republicans now think it’s time for people to get back to work even as a majority of Democrats say no. And this is where the political geography of California comes into play. Gov. Newsom is a progressive who was formerly the Mayor of San Francisco. Orange County, which is in southern California, isn’t as conservative as it once was but there are still a lot of Republicans here who are thinking it’s time to start opening things up rather than shut them down. That’s true of people on the street who say they want the beaches open:

“It’s time to move on,” Huntington Beach resident Jim Puro, 59, said Thursday. “We need to start opening up and I can’t think of a better way than to be out in the sun.”
The beaches are expansive, he argued. “There is more than enough space for people to socially distance themselves,” he said.

It’s also true of some elected officials who pushed back on the planned shut down by the governor. The Mayor of Newport Beach put out this statement, complete with photos from a police helicopter, disputing the claim that beaches were overcrowded last weekend. It reads in part, “We understand photos captured some individuals who were not social distancing. However, the photos included below, taken from out police helicopter on the peak day of attendance…reflect what we saw along much of the City’s seven miles of ocean beaches this past weekend.”

Something similar happened in California over the weekend and it has created a battle between local government and the governor. Specifically, it happened in Orange County not far from my house. We had a very warm weekend and this is what Newport Beach looked like.

It’s also true of some elected officials who pushed back on the planned shut down by the governor. The Mayor of Newport Beach put out this statement, complete with photos from a police helicopter, disputing the claim that beaches were overcrowded last weekend. It reads in part, “We understand photos captured some individuals who were not social distancing. However, the photos included below, taken from out police helicopter on the peak day of attendance…reflect what we saw along much of the City’s seven miles of ocean beaches this past weekend.”

At least one Sheriff in the state, in northern Humboldt county, has said he will not enforce the governor’s order:
“As Sheriff, I am the protector of constitutional rights in Humboldt County, and if an order is issued that I believe violates our constitutional rights, I will not enforce it,” said Sheriff William Honsal.
So here’s the video of Gov. Newsom scolding people Monday. It appears he is going to shut down the beaches but I wonder if law enforcement in Orange County will enforce that order.

Beware Of Tyranny

Beware of tyranny more than COVID-19

To fight a pandemic responsible for fewer deaths than the Asian flu of 1957­–58, we've been schooled to think and behave like the abject oppressed of North Korea.
  • We let bureaucrats decide for us what businesses are more important than others to society.
  • Without a squeak we acquiesce to being put under de facto house arrest.
  • We hardly blink when troops are deployed to enforce lockdown.
  • People believe they're doing their duty by reporting on neighbors.
  • Passively, we observe our right to protest neatly cut off when public gatherings are outlawed in the name of social distancing.
  • We accept the obligation to go bankrupt and hungry as the cost of beating the virus but don't expect our lawmakers to make the same sacrifice that they imposed on us.
  • That the chance of death in lockdown due to hunger, addiction, depression, violence, neglect, etc. may be higher than dying from the virus matters not one iota to the commissars of lockdown.
  • With bovine servility, we greet every inroad into private lives by lawmakers who too often have a rotten past.
  • We are blind to the political basis of the divide between those who advocate keeping the economy closed until the cows come home and those desperate for the economy to reopen.
  • Though we may see it, we fail to grasp that deliberate destruction of the socio-economic fabric is about exercising power over people instead of a life-or-death imperative.
  • Bureaucrats blame the pandemic for threatening untold lives: "The World Food Programme suggests that 130 million people around the world could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."  Wait a minute!  "As a result of"?  COVID-19 causes sickness and death, mostly of minuscule proportions.  It took just 1 in 1 million Indians to die to panic bureaucrats to lock up a billion people.  What virus ever caused people to starve?  Lockdown policies did that.  The dire condition of our world is no fault of a virus.  It was man-made.  More to the point, it was expert-made and government-administered.
Yet all of the above are details in the greater scheme.  Where for example is the goalpost?  For bureaucrats to give our lives back, how flat must a curve made by someone's model be?  When will the time come to remove our shackles, to let us live normally?  No answers come.  That's important.

No goalpost means that the elect are free to grab powers of their dreams.  

The Bolshevism of Stalin and the National Socialism of Hitler worked in that way, giving tyrants unlimited slack.  Hannah Arendt in her great work, Origins of Totalitarianism, explains what use they made of it.  

"From day to day it was impossible to predict what new canard or atrocity [the slack] might inspire."  Hence, the more ill defined the objective, the more scope our bureaucrats get to control a fear-ridden populace.

It could be the most diabolical blueprint ever.  Leon Trotsky, commander in chief of the Red Army and the ablest man in the Kremlin, might well be speaking to the architects of lockdown.  Yet he does not talk about containing a pandemic.  Saving lives is the last thing on Trotsky's mind.  Humans indeed are dispensable for a greater cause.  Yet what the Bolshevik has to say would resonate with the commissars of our time.  He does not speak about protecting life and liberty.  Instead, he hints at treating both with contempt when stating: "The end may justify the means, as long as there is something that justifies the end."  If the end motive behind locking down society and closing down the economy involves grabbing unconstitutional powers, the Trotsky lesson has been well taken.

We've been told lies into the bargain. By all the evidence Covid-19 can never be contained however much testing and contact tracing are done. Experts worth their salt would know that the horse already bolted. The virus is too widespread to be brought back. Bureaucrats need to come clean with us.
Not only lied to, we've had the wool pulled over our eyes. The first lockdown orders were imposed to buy time, to avoid overloading the healthcare system. As things turned there were not too many patients but too few. Empty hospitals all over America are letting staff go. So bureaucrats had to shift the goal. They did it while the locked up masses watched movies. We now have to stay home to prevent deaths. Overloading the healthcare system is old stuff. Saving life is the new thing. 

If so, have we surrendered to tyranny for the sake of a commensurate number of lives saved? That's a big question. Considering the price we've had to pay, the threat would have to be existential. Three-months of corona in America have left some 58,000 dead, half of those in metropolitan New York. Compare that with death from other diseases. In any given month some 157,000 Americans die from unsung health conditions including heart disease, cancer, emphysema, stroke, drug abuse, diabetes and the common flu. That's 471,000 for three months. Who would dare call the proportion, 58/471 existential?

Some would – they who stand to gain by whipping up panic. The media definitely gains. Bureaucrats and epidemiologists who live for limelight have all to gain and little to lose. Our policy-makers don't get hit in the pocket; it's the common people who get hit when the policies turn belly-up. Those who made them are also protected by being well-versed at shifting blame.

It took a matter of a month for policy-makers to cost the livelihoods of 26 million American workers and broke employers. They had led them to believe that they'd save the lives of millions by posting, 'Closed for business until further notice.'
Then you have the super-elite who live a world apart. Bill Gates writing in the Washington Post, the mouthpiece of owner Jeff Bezos, states that reopening the economy soon is not an option. Do Gates and Bezos have to work to support families? Do they face bankruptcy? Will they need unemployment support? Or line up at a soup kitchen? And they're Democrats, remember. As Democrats they stand for nothing higher than the exercise of power over people, for Big Daddy government.

"Never let a crisis go to waste" was the advice given to Democrats by Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. America was being pummelled by the financial meltdown of 2008. They've not allowed the Corona crisis to go to waste. Indeed, from governments of the right and left, from networks and newspapers to desperados presiding over collapsed economies, the pandemic comes as a heaven-sent football.
Benjamin Franklin could have had a futuristic moment when he said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

How The World Will React To Israeli Annexation Of Golan Heights

Lots of bark, some actual bite? How the world will react to West Bank annexation

On November 16, 1980, prime minister Menachem Begin was asked during an interview with NBC how he thought the international community would respond to an Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. At the time, a bill extending Israeli law to the disputed area had been introduced on the Knesset floor, but Begin’s government had not yet announced its support for the move.
“As we didn’t yet take any decision about it, I think it is premature to speak about reactions,” he told the interviewer.
About a year later, Begin pushed the Golan Heights Law through the Knesset. The international community’s response was unsurprising, with the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel’s de facto annexation as a “continuing threat to international peace and security.” Resolution 497 passed unanimously, including a “yes” vote by the Reagan administration.

Fast forward four decades: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to annex all the settlements, the Jordan Valley and other significant parts of the West Bank, with the coalition agreement between his Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White allowing him to advance the issue in the next government as early as July 1.
How would the international community react to this kind of Israeli annexation? There would certainly be plenty of opprobrium, “emergency meetings” by the Security Council and the Arab League, and perhaps a few threats of unspecified “consequences.”

But no one knows for sure whether Netanyahu’s annexation — whose actual impact on the ground is hard to predict — would have concrete negative internationally driven repercussions for Israel.
Would the European Union enact sanctions against Israel, as it did against Russia after its annexation of Crimea in 2014? Brussels could, for instance, freeze some bilateral agreements, suspend scientific cooperation, cancel the preferential tariffs it grants to Israeli products, or ban West Bank goods altogether. Some individual member states may recall their ambassadors or recognize a Palestinian state.

“Responses vary among countries, but at this phase the concrete consequences of annexation are yet to be spelled out,” said Nimrod Goren, the head of Mitvim — The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. “The type of annexation that Netanyahu will eventually choose to pursue will impact how harsh the international response will be. The reaction of the Palestinians on the ground — whether violent or not — will also be a determining factor.”

Many countries have recently emphasized that unilateral annexations are a violation of international law, which according to Goren shows that challenges to Netanyahu’s move would play out not only bilaterally but also in the international legal arena.
But since the UN and the EU are “limited in their response to annexation due to possible veto by Israel’s allies there, Israel should expect major pushback from countries like France, Germany and Jordan,” he said.
The US this week reiterated its support for an Israeli annexation, as long as it’s done in the framework of President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century. The administration is sure to veto any attempt to condemn Israel’s move, but at the UN General Assembly a (nonbinding) resolution would pass with an overwhelming majority.

Last week, as the Likud-Blue and White coalition deal was published, officials across the globe warned the incoming Israeli government against annexation. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ominously that Brussels would “closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”

Some EU member states felt that now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, was “not the time for threats” and blocked efforts to issue Borrell’s statement in the name of the entire bloc, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel.

Still, no country beside the US has issued support for an Israeli annexation, and even many of its close friends have advised against it clearly. Germany said it would have “serious, negative repercussions on Israel’s standing within the international community,” and France warned that it “would not pass unchallenged and shall not be overlooked in our relationship with Israel.”

Other countries, including Russia, China, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and Norway, made similar statements.
The Palestinian leadership welcomed the “global and principled commitment to the standing and universal application of international law, which strictly prohibits annexation,” and called for “preemptive and concrete measures” against Israel.

'War On Cash' In Overdrive

'War On Cash' Is Kicking Into Overdrive

In the depths of the 2008–09 financial crisis, Obama’s first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, remarked that one should never let a good crisis go to waste. You probably recall him saying that.
He was referring to the fact that crises may be temporary but hidden agendas are permanent.
The global elites and deep state actors always have a laundry list of programs and regulations they can’t wait to put into practice. They know that most of these are deeply unpopular and they could never get away with putting them into practice during ordinary times.
Yet when a crisis hits, citizens are desperate for fast action and quick solutions. The elites bring forward their rescue packages but then use these as Trojan horses to sneak their wish list inside.

The USA Patriot Act that passed after 9/11 is a good example. Some counterterrorist measures were needed, of course. But the Treasury had a long-standing wish list involving reporting cash transactions and limiting citizens’ ability to get cash.
They plugged that wish list into the Patriot Act and we’ve been living with the results ever since, even though 9/11 is long in the past.

Obviously, the effort to eliminate cash is hardly new. It has been going on for many years and in many forms.
The U.S. discontinued the use of large-denomination bills in the late 1960s. Until 1969, $500, $1,000, $5,000 and even $10,000 bills were issued, even though they were printed decades earlier.
Today the largest bill is a $100 bill, but it has lost 80% of its purchasing power since 1968, so it’s really just a $20 bill from those days. Europe has ended the 500-euro note and today the largest note in euros is 200 euros.

Harvard professor Ken Rogoff has a book called The Curse of Cash, which calls for the complete elimination of cash. Many Bitcoin groupies say the same thing. Central banks and the IMF are all working on new digital currencies today.

The reasons for this are said to include attacks on tax evasion, terrorism and criminal activity. There’s some truth to these claims. Cash is anonymous, so it can’t be tracked.
But the real reason is because the elimination of cash would allow elites to impose negative interest rates, account freezes and confiscation.
They can’t do that as long as you can go to your bank and withdraw your cash. That’s the key.
In other words, it’s much easier for them to control your money if they first herd you into a digital cattle pen. That’s their true objective and all the other reasons are just a smokescreen.

And now, predictably, the latest attack on cash comes courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crisis Meets Opportunity

This crisis is even larger and scarier than the 2008 crisis, which gives elites even more opportunity to ram their agendas through without serious opposition. They don’t intend to let it go to waste.
Sure enough, government agents and tech vendors are now claiming that cash is “dangerous” because it could contain traces of the coronavirus.

If you’re really concerned about getting coronavirus from cash, it’s simple to wear sanitary gloves during any transactions (I do). Then put the cash to one side. The virus cannot live more than 10 hours or so on an inorganic surface. After a while, your cash is safe.
But if you get scared into giving up cash because of COVID-19, then don’t complain when you find that your financial freedom is also gone when the world moves to 100% digital money.

U.S. vs China: 'The Truce Is Over'

"The Truce Is Over": Trump Considering Ways To Punish China, Convinced Beijing "Will Do Anything" To Make Him Lose Re-election

And to think just three months ago things between the US and China, which had just signed 'Phase 1' of the long-awaited trade deal were going "so well."

In an Oval Office interview with Reuters published Wednesday night, Trump said he thinks that China is determined to see him lose the November election based on Beijing’s response to the coronavirus, and that he is considering various ways to punish the Chinese government which he he again blamed for allowing the virus to spread across the world.
"China will do anything they can to have me lose this race," Trump said in the interview and said he was looking at different options in terms of consequences for Beijing over the virus. “I can do a lot,” he said.

Trump has heaped blame on China for a global pandemic that has killed at least 60,000 people in the United States and thrown the U.S. economy into a deep recession, putting in jeopardy Trump's hopes for another four-year term.
Worried that an attempt to reopen the economy would be hindered by a second infection wave in the fall, forcing the US to shutter again and sending the economy into an even deeper depression, Trump said he believed China should have been more active in letting the world know about the coronavirus much sooner.
Asked whether he was considering the use of tariffs or even debt write-offs for China, Trump would not offer specifics. “There are many things I can do,” he said. “We’re looking for what happened.”
“They’re constantly using public relations to try to make it like they’re innocent parties,” he said of Chinese officials.
One example is Global Times Editor in Chief who is engaged in a daily stream of propaganda on twitter, vilifying Trump and the US as the following example demonstrates:

Already fell 4.8% in Q1, will definitely be worse in Q2. How will President Trump explain? I guess he would say the figure is better than expected and is so much better than any other country in the world.When China sees positive growth rate in Q2,he would say the number is fake.

“China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” said Trump. He said he believes Beijing wants Joe Biden to win the race to ease the pressure Trump has placed on China over trade and other issues.

A senior Trump administration official told Reuters that an informal “truce” in the war of words that Trump and Xi essentially agreed to in a phone call in late March now appeared to be over
Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that China posed a threat to the world by hiding information about the origin of the coronavirus: “The Chinese Communist Party now has a responsibility to tell the world how this pandemic got out of China and all across the world, causing such global economic devastation,” Pompeo told Fox News on Wednesday morning, during an interview in which he repeatedly criticized China’s government. “America needs to hold them accountable.”
The comments came after China Central Television’s top evening news program on Wednesday questioned the transparency and accuracy of U.S. data on Covid-19 infections; they also followed a US government report which concluded that the Wuhan lab is the "most likely source" of the coronavirus outbreak.