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Edward Snowden: A Russian Citizen

In the United States today dissent from the official narratives that serve secret agendas implies that you are a kook conspiracy theorist and more recently that you are a foreign operative against your country. 

by Dr Paul Craig Roberts

Yesterday Edward Snowden was granted Russian citizenship. Snowden had to flee his country, because he released information that proved that the NSA was, and still is, illegally spying on US citizens.  The presstitutes will use Snowden’s grant of citizenship as proof that he was a Russian spy, not a patriotic whistleblower trying to alert his countrymen to their danger.

Edward Snowden., former U.S. National Security Agency contractor [ Photo: DW]

 I would like to give some background. Edward Snowden was the second American who blew the whistle about illegal NSA spying on American citizens.

William Binney was the first.  Binney was a Russian specialist with the National Security Agency.  He developed the spy program that was supposed to be used against America’s enemies, but was illegally used against the American population.  Binney, despite being the NSA Geopolitical World Technical Director, a high position, blew the whistle on the illegal activity, comparing it to activities of the KGB, Stasi, Gestapo, and SS.

As a consequence, the US government decided to destroy him.  In July 2007 a dozen heavily armed FBI Gestapo broke into his home and arrested him while he was taking a shower.  His economic livelihood was destroyed, and the government attempted to prosecute him.

However, Binney exposed the illegal spying internally through the official whistleblower program, and he did not take any documents as proof of the illegal spying on US citizens. As a result of these precautions, Binney could not be prosecuted, and the information that the US government was illegally spying on its own citizens did not get out.

Speaking before the German Bundestag in July 2014, Binney said that NSA was using totalitarian methods that previously had only been used by dictatorships. He said that Washington’s goal was to monitor the whole American population, including those abroad, which stands in contradiction of the US Constitution.

As Binney had taken no documents, he could supply no proof, and the US media disposed of him as a crackpot who turned against his country.

Consequently, Edward Snowden who knew first-hand that the NSA was illegally and unconstitutionally spying on US citizens took and released the documents to prove it. This effort to wake up insouciant Americans meant that he would be arrested on national security grounds. Snowden realized that and released the documents to Glenn Greenwald in Asia and escaped capture by China permitting his passage to Russia. The whore US media used Snowden’s escape via China to Russia as proof that he was a spy, and used this false story to prevent Americans from understanding that it was their own government, not Snowden, who was betraying them.

That Russia has belatedly granted Snowden citizenship will be used by the US presstitute media as proof that he is a Russian spy out to discredit the NSA.  Many Americans, the least educated and aware of all peoples, will fall for this story.

What does this tell us?

It tells us that it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, for even high government officials who turn whistleblower to awaken the American people.  

Americans have no idea of anything that is really happening in the world. They only get officially approved narratives handed to a media that serves only as a Ministry of Propaganda.  I am a former editor at the Wall Street Journal.  There is no one in American print and TV media today that has enough integrity for them to be hired by the WSJ four decades ago when I was an editor.

In the United States today dissent from the official narratives that serve secret agendas implies that you are a kook conspiracy theorist and more recently that you are a foreign operative against your country.  It will not be long in the US before any disagreement from official narratives is grounds for arrest.

So, to be clear, in the US today facts not only do not matter, but they are dangerous to those who speak them.  

Dr Paul Craig Roberts is a well-known economist who received his PhD from the University of Virginia. He was, in the early 1980s, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under Ronald Reagan. He has been the associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has been a columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns at www.paulcraigroberts.org have attracted a following worldwide.

What has happened to the British Pound

Speculation was growing that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee might have to intervene with an emergency rate hike, sooner than expected. 

by Victor Cherubim

“Working people are paying the price of the Tory government’s casino economics. Labour will cut bills, create jobs and secure energy independence for Britain by 2030.”  ~ Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in response to the chancellor's mini-Budget.

When I came to Britain in 1966, the pound bought me US Dollars 2.40 and today it is at a record low against the Green Back, as early trading in markets in South East Asia, collapsed the Pound to $1.0327, the lowest since decimalisation in 1971. Luckily it regained ground to $1.07. What really happened after Black Friday? (23 September 2022).

Representational Image: Sterling tumbled to a record trough on Monday as traders scampered for the exits on speculation the new government’s economic plan will stretch Britain’s finances to the limit. [ Photo: Special Arrangement]

Markets are volatile and naturally, they seem to have taken fright after what our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. KwasiKwarteng stated at the weekend that he was ready to slash taxes even further, more than the £45 Billion cuts in his Mini Budget on Friday. 

Speculation was growing that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee might have to intervene with an emergency rate hike, sooner than expected. 

Need I say, if Sterling Pound falls to parity with the US Dollar, it could trigger a rebellion among Tory backbenchers who could refuse to vote for the Government’s Finance Bill, or even submit letters of no confidence in PM Liz Truss, said the Daily Telegraph. 

Labour Opposition at Party Conference in Liverpool

The Labour Party at its Annual Party Conference in Liverpool, with Parliament in recess, accused the Chancellor of “fanning the flames” of the crisis and calling the City’s regulator to investigate leaks in his Mini Budget. 

Labour has challenged the “Growth Plan” in the Mini Budget. The fallout has given Labour a well-timed opportunity to lay out an alternative economic plan at its party Conference but does not want to divulge its plans, in advance of a General Election planned for 2024. 

Can Labour win the next General Election? 

After 12 years of Conservative Government, the public is asking this question. As it stands today according to a poll Labour is on course for a sizeable majority whenever the next General Election is called. It is increasing looking like a “Government-in-waiting,”  unless it spoils its chances.

Polls give it today a 12 point lead over the Conservatives, which would land them a comfortable Parliamentary majority, estimated at 56 seats. 

What the Pound record low means for UK?

We know a consideration and delivery of measures announced in the Mini Budget will, however, create new opportunities for an innovative start-up and will help unlock private investment. 

The Mini Budget announcement has envisaged an economic growth goal of 2.5 percent, before the next General election.

A Tory Grandee says the current crisis will pass. Some others have been scathing in their views. Still, others have urged colleagues to be patient and not panic. 

In my view, it is like Boris, the British will always rise to the occasion, which is a trait I have learned in England. 

In my view, a decrease in the wholesale price of gas will over winter make a big difference. 

People cannot only be bought over with “tax cuts”? 

Innovation is the mantra which is built up from a foundation of ideas and knowledge, which the Conservatives have acquired over the past 12 years in Government. This experience is priceless. 

But at the same time, a weak Pound will no doubt fuel the cost of imports depending the cost of living crisis. The Governor of the Bank of England has ruled out any emergency increase in the Bank Rate in the immediate future. That’s “cool” in the colloquial.

How the Conservatives want to play their cards when Parliament reopens will to a large extent determine the outcome of the crisis?

UK Pound Sinks, Heading to IMF Bailout

UK pound has hit an all-time low against the dollar after the bonanza of tax cuts and spending measures in Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget threatened to undermine confidence in the UK

Newly elected Prime Minister of the UK,  Liz Truss’s plan for growth, melding the biggest tax giveaway in half a century with Thatcherite deregulation, is a straight-up gamble with Britain’s future, and even before her chancellor of the exchequer had finished delivering it on Friday the bet was starting to sour, the Bloomberg has reported.

Liz Truss arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in London on Sept. 22, 2020. [ Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images]

“The market’s verdict on the £220 billion policy blitz set out by Kwasi Kwarteng was swift and devastating. Sterling crashed below $1.11 for the first time since 1985, taking its slump for the year to date to 19%. Five-year gilts posted their biggest ever daily decline,” the report added.

Meanwhile, according to the reports in British media, Liz Truss’s 45bn pound tax cutting spree has set Britain on course for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund

“Nouriel Roubini, an economist who famously predicted the financial crisis, has warned that British investments are trading “like an emerging market” as he drew parallels with the economic chaos of the 1970s,” the Telegraph has reported.

“Mr Roubini said on Twitter that Britain is heading “back to the 1970s” and “eventually the need to go and beg for an IMF bailout” following huge tax cuts unveiled by Kwasi Kwarteng in his mini-Budget,” the report added.

The pound has hit an all-time low against the dollar after the bonanza of tax cuts and spending measures in Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget threatened to undermine confidence in the UK.

The pound plunged nearly 5% at one point to $1.0327; it’s lowest since Britain went decimal in 1971, as belief in the UK’s economic management and assets evaporated.

Humanity will Eat itself through Violence, War, Hatred and Neglect

Even Seven Billion Simple Acts of Kindness will not Alter the Outcome

by John Stanton

Mutilation & Burning at the Stake: United States 1899 in the US State of Georgia:

“Sam Hose was brought to a patch of land known as the old Troutman field. Newspapers reported that members of the mob used knives to sever Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals while others plunged knives repeatedly into his body, to cheers from the mob. Men and boys gathered kindling from the nearby woods to create a pyre. The skin from Hose’s face was removed, and he was doused with kerosene. He was then chained to a pine tree. Several matches were thrown onto the pyre by members of the mob, lighting it on fire and burning Hose alive. The heat from the fire caused Hose’s veins to rupture while his eyes nearly burst from their sockets.[ One journalist present noted the crowd watched “with unfeigned satisfaction” at contortions of Hose’s body. As the flames consumed his body, Hose screamed out, “Oh my God! Oh Jesus!”. From the time of Hose’s first injuries to his death, almost 30 minutes passed. One woman thanked God for the actions of the mob. Some members of the mob cut off pieces of his dead body as souvenirs. Pieces of Hose’s bones were sold for 25 cents, while his heart and liver were cut out to be sold.” ~ Wikipedia

Sneakers hang over street in Melbourne, Australia (Photo: Arnaud Mesureur/ Unsplash]

Scaphism in ancient Persia:

“In order for the method to work, it had to take place in a swamp or somewhere where the boats could lie exposed to the sun. The victim would be tied inside the space between the boats in a way that left their head, hands, and feet outside. Then, the person in charge of the process would feed the victim a mixture of milk and honey, forcing them to swallow against their will, so the mixture dripped everywhere, covering their eyes, face, and neck. This same mixture was then spread all over the exposed body parts, and the idea was that it would attract every insect, vermin, and wild animal in the area. Very soon afterwards, flies and rats, for instance, would show up and start attacking the victim, eating the mixture of milk and honey, but also eating the person alive along the process.Now, as if the bugs eating them alive weren’t enough, there was also the severe diarrhea that left them feeling weak and dehydrated. This horrifying symptom was the intended consequence of their enforced milk-and-honey diet. The more they were fed this mixture, the more they would defecate inside the boats, but also, the longer they stayed alive. This point, precisely, was the cruelest yet most effective aspect of scaphism: the victims couldn’t die from the diarrhea-induced dehydration because they were fed milk and honey every day. As a result, the victims could survive for days and even weeks in a small hell of bugs, feces, milk, and honey.” ~ culturacolectiva.com

United States in the 21st Century:

“Afghan national Alif Khan told Amnesty International that he was held in US custody in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for five days in May 2002. He said that he was held in handcuffs, waist chains, and leg shackles for the whole time, subjected to sleep deprivation, denied water for prayer or washing, and was kept in a cage-like structure with eight people.” ~Amnesty International

Myers Enterprises located in the US State of Denver, Colorado, produces the “stun cuff” that shocks unruly prisoners back to order. It takes international orders.  Axon Enterprise made $863 million in revenue in 2021 with one of its core product being the Taser, according to its Investor Slide Deck. There are 960 thousand Tasers floating around the United States and in Europe. Axon sells a number of other products particularly integrated computing observation and reporting systems. While there are complaints about deaths involving Taser’s, or what are known as Conducting Electricity Devices (CED’s), in June 2022 the Office of Justice Programs found that. “law enforcement need not refrain from deploying CEDs, provided the devices are used inaccordance with accepted national guidelines.” Meanwhile,  Amnesty International in a December 2020 report seeks strict controls on CED’s (good luck with that). Since a Taser is a form of gun, it falls, arguably, under the protection of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution (the right to keep and bear arms).

General Mike Minihan, the US Air Mobility Commander opined recently that, “Lethality matters most. When you can kill your enemy, every part of your life is better. Your food tastes better. Your marriage is stronger. This is who we are. We are lethal. Do not apologize for it, after listing distinguished Air Force commanders like Gen. Curtis LeMay and Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, who had no scruples against killing the enemy. The pile of our nation’s enemy dead, the pile that is the biggest, is in front of the United States Air Force,” he said.

Task & Purpose, September 2022

Imagine a world where roughly 5 billion of the Earth’s 7 billion people has access to a World Wide Web of knowledge that would allow them to search studies on anatomy, chemical engineering, genetics, geography, anthropology, quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence and military science, Shannon’s theory of information, crops and farming, and more. Much more, it turns out. There are free online courses which allow you to learn Algebra or just about any technical or non-technical subject matter on the planet. Want to refute of confirm what “a leader” just told you, look it up online. And collaboration, the Web was designed just for that.

Instead, the Web has become more polluted, if that is possible, with cognitive/attention span killing programs like Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, and thousands of reality-bending nuanced disinformation sites that plague the Web. What was supposed to have been a liberating force for humanity’s knowledge is now a crass advertising and propaganda monster. But, perhaps the saddest thought is that it doesn’t take much to tunnel through all the bull&^%$ and find the data buried behind the cognitive/attention span-killing cotton candy. Information sources such as the National Institutes of Health, New England Medical Journal, Defense Technology Information Center and a plethora of other sites on the Web like them are credible, reliable sources. Prominent universities in the USA typically publish their rigorous research findings (MIT, Harvard, CALTECH, Stanford). Do you want to find one place that gives the Russian military campaign in Ukraine its props on manoeuvre warfare? Look no further than the US Marine Corps Gazette, August 2022, paper 22, authored by Marinus.

The Web has become a partisan wasteland with users looking to bounce their left, right and centre world views right back into their brains after some sort of affirmation by the left, right and centre triad. Rarely, if ever, do they cross over into the realm of the other.

I suppose that the Web imitates life in meatspace and there it is arguably worse: global economic woes, USA challenging China and Russia directly, elections of significance in Brazil and the United States, an increase in violence in America’s cities, a pandemic that is not over, climate change, shifting international alliances, America’s global sanctions regime, Russia vs Ukraine conflict, exploding healthcare costs, food shortages, finance capital, ad nauseam.

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, summed it all up in a recent speech to the United Nations in August 2022, “The seriousness of the present moment obliges me to share difficult but true words with you. Everything that we are doing today seems impotent and vague. Our words make a hollow and empty echo compared to the reality that we are facing. The reality is that no one listens to anyone, no one strives for real agreements and problem solving, and almost everyone cares only about their own interests.”

Solutions?

Why prolong the inevitable end?

John Stanton lives in the Washington, DC Metropolitan region. He has written hundreds of articles on national security and political matters. He taught a course on national security for nine years at a private school. His commentary has been carried by radio, television and the World Wide Web. John's works are cited in scores of publications relating to national security issues.

Can The Metaverse Lead To Smart Flight Decks And Smart Airports?

Our physical world is three-dimensional. Even though we are far advanced in the digital age, most of our work is now being done on two-dimensional vision and application.

by Ruwantissa Abeyratne

“The metaverse is best understood as the shift of computing and interaction from a device in your pocket into a virtual simulation.” ~ Matthew Ball

The word “metaverse” has been with us for decades, first introduced as a platform of dystopia in a 1992 science fiction novel titled “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson. Yet, it eludes definition or full comprehension in many of us.  Some have gone to the extent of calling the Metaverse a “3D Internet”. At most, the Metaverse can be described as “ a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users”.  When this definition is expanded it becomes “ a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality and augmented reality”. 

Somewhere over Russia, enroute to Italy. [ Photo: Richard Gatley/ Unsplash]

This new platform has already shown compelling results  in the world of surgery where successful surgery was performed in 2021 in the Johns Hopkins Hospital by neurosurgeons in augmented reality during live surgery

Virtual reality and augmented reality are terms that we are already familiar with. The difference between augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR)  is that, while AR takes digital information and transforms it to a 3D physical reality, obviating the burden of the cognitive load and is used in various commercial enterprises, VR takes physical reality into an environment that is computer generated and driven, thus making it an ideal application for entertainment purposes. The difference between the two is intrinsic in that AR gives us physical reality while VR gives us virtual reality. This is what makes AR valuable for the aviation industry. Porter and Heppelman go on to say: “At Boeing, AR training has had a dramatic impact on the productivity and quality of complex aircraft manufacturing procedures. In one Boeing study, AR was used to guide trainees through the 50 steps required to assemble an aircraft wing section involving 30 parts. With the help of AR, trainees completed the work in 35% less time than trainees using traditional 2-D drawings and documentation. And the number of trainees with little or no experience who could perform the operation correctly the first time increased by 90%”.

The combination of AR and VR would be significant to both the air transport and airport industries.  We could envision a combination of AR and VR being used to simulate weather patterns; cloud formation; and turbulence in a flight path which could alert the flight crew prior to taking off. The authors of System for synthetic vision and augmented reality in future flight decks (June 2000 Proceedings of SPIE – The International Society for Optical Engineering) say: “Rockwell Science Center is investigating novel human-computer interface techniques for enhancing the situational awareness in future flight decks. One aspect is to provide intuitive displays which provide vital information and spatial awareness by augmenting the real world with an overlay of relevant information registered to the real world. Such Augmented Reality (AR) techniques can be employed during bad weather scenarios to permit flying in Visual Flight Rules (VFR) in conditions which would normally require Instrumental Flight Rules (IFR). These systems could easily be implemented on heads-up displays (HUD)”. The new vision of the flight deck includes AR in weather information, surrounding air traffic and information on terrain.

In the airport industry, this has already become a reality.  In the airport world, this platform is called “The Digital Twin”.  As an example, Hong Kong International Airport can be cited which has its own Digital Twin, where airport staff use a live 3D simulation to plan and determine where passengers, gates and planes should be located and directed. The Digital Twin is also being used at Schiphol in Amsterdam, San Francisco International and Vancouver Airport.

The Digital Twin is a virtual replica of every aspect of airport operations and performance “to maximise efficiency and increase capacity in a more timely and cost-effective way”, as an article in the magazine Passenger Terminal World reports.  Its most effective purpose is to alert airports to anticipated problems on a 24-hour basis and flag operations staff at the airport so that they can obviate the threat and operational difficulty that could ensue. It also points to problem areas that could inconvenience and delay passenger flows, thus avoiding congestion.

Another useful purpose of the Digital Twin is that it can alleviate passenger stress.  An example cited is the airport and flight experience it offers before the actual experience, thus enabling passengers who are anxious to be more prepared when undergoing the actual experience.  One category that benefits from this platform is the autistic community.

The Digital Twin can also offer insights into the future.  For example, if an airport has an aspirational goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030, it can model the aircraft and on-ground vehicle movements as well as other activities on the airfield.  These models can be applied to machine learning that can reflect the most efficient way an airport can be run.   Even in the planning process of an airport, the Digital Twin could offer the best iteration as Schiphol has done in the application of building information management software to generate a 3D digital version of physical and functional characteristics of an airport infrastructure.

Our physical world is three-dimensional. Even though we are far advanced in the digital age, most of our work is now being done on two-dimensional vision and application. Whether we look at a computer screen or smartphone we do not have the true picture until we translate the two-dimensional information we receive into three-dimensional practicality which is the real world. This process of translation imposes a load on our mental capacity requiring time to decipher practical reality. This demand on our brain is called “cognitive load”. AR greatly diminishes the demand on our cognitive load by converting the data obtained by two-dimensional methods images and animations that instantly gives us a picture of the real world. Michael Porter and James Heppelmann in their article Why Every Organization Needs an Augmented Reality Strategy published in the Harvard Business Review say: “[T]oday, most AR applications are delivered through mobile devices, but increasingly delivery will shift to hands-free wearables such as head-mounted displays or smart glasses”.

Dr. Abeyratne is the author of Aviation and the Carbon Trade, Aviation and the Environment, and Aviation and Climate Change: In Search of a Global Market Based Option.

Sri Lanka: The Problem of the People

While Ranil Wickremesinghe blunders and the opposition exists in a parallel universe where their electoral victory is written in the stars, the Rajapaksas are back to weaving their web of lies and deception.

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

Was there then no essential difference between the ruler and the ruled?” ~ Salman Rushdie (The Enchantress of Florence)

Sri Lanka, unravelled and unravelling, is mesmerised by a new wonder: the Lotus Tower. When that monumental symbol of Rajapaksa folly was opened to the public last week, people thronged to pay the entrance fee, ride to the top, and gaze down. A monk enthused that he felt close to the highest of Buddhist heavens. Women thanked Mahinda Rajapaksa for enabling them to have this wondrous experience.

It was as if economic ruin and social collapse was happening in another country, to another people.

Night view of Colombo City [Photo © Thilina Kaluthotage]

According to a survey conducted by a group of doctors, 80% of children in Sooriyawewa, in the Rajapaksa home-district of Hambantota, are malnourished (unlike the international cricket stadium the Rajapaksas built in that water-starved locality which gets the water the people are denied). That distressing statistic alone suffices to bare the vacuity of the Rajapaksa brand of infrastructure-led development. In a 2007 cable, American ambassador, Robert Blake, wrote, “An empty port, an empty airport, and an empty vast convention centre would not generate the benefits that Hambantota needs…” One percent of the money spent on these vanity projects could have provided the people of Hambantota with every possible creature comfort for generations to come. Hambantota was poor when Mahinda Rajapaksa first became president in 2005 and is still poor seventeen years later.

Untouched by Rajapaksa development, yet solidly pro-Rajapaksa at every election.  

Infrastructure-led development was a key pillar of Rajapaksa economics. Build airports, ports, stadia, expressways, and prosperity will follow. The strategy enabled corruption on unprecedented scale, satisfied Mahinda Rajapaksa’s colossal vanity, and, against all reason, increased the family’s popularity. The projects, productive or not, often not, were tabula rasa on which dreams of national glory and illusions of popular prosperity could be inscribed.

An actor playing the role of historian once created for the Rajapaksas a lineage going back to the Buddha, via King Dutugemunu. The massive physical infrastructure projects were depicted as modern variants of the infrastructure projects of ancient kings, a historical continuum, Sandahiru Seya the descendent of Runwanweli Seya, Hambantota Port the descendent of Parakrama Samudraya. People were invited to come and admire a breakwater, a runway, a walking path masquerading as a marina. In that way, an illusion of ownership was created. People came, they admired, and they voted.

The habit is so ingrained that, even without the full effect of the Rajapaksa propaganda machine, the Lotus Tower looks like a shortcut to heaven to some Lankans. Not in the same overwhelming numbers as in the past. Not enough for the SLPP to win the next election, but enough for every single contesting Rajapaksa father, son, uncle, nephew and cousin to be re-elected. Perhaps even enough for the SLPP, with its consignment of deplorables, to hold the balance of power in the next parliament.

Basil Rajapaksa can see this future and he is readying the SLPP for it. The party’s new political academy will hone the next generation of Rajapaksa devotee-activists. Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism will be re-burnished with the usual talk of motherland being in danger. Lotus Tower, undead Tiger, and encroaching Muslim in combination can dazzle enough eyes and twist enough minds. And the Rajapaksas will have their path back to national relevance, kingmakers if not kings.

 Absurd Faith

In an interview with a private TV channel during the run up to the 2019 presidential poll, Udaya Gammanpila called Gotabaya Rajapaksa a composite of “the managerial skills of Mahathir Mohammad, farsightedness of Lee Kuan Yew, bravery of Vladimir Putin, spiritual approach of Jawaharlal Nehru, and patriotism of Fidel Castro.” The words seem grotesque now and should have seemed embarrassingly funny even then. Yet the interviewer didn’t laugh or even roll his eyes. The audience would have lapped it up.

An electorate that is predisposed to believe any absurdity, sans proof, sans fact, that was what the Rajapaksas needed and that was what they created with their propaganda. Illusions and delusions were their stock of trade. In August 2005, an outburst of mass hysteria about Buddha statues emanating luminous rays coincided with the Mavilaru operation, and shored up support in the Sinhala South for the fourth Eelam war. An elephant calf was said to have been born on the very day High King Mahinda won the war, a lie that was believed until it was inadvertently exposed in 2013. Credulity was nursed and fostered, turned into a political weapon and election winning strategy. To quote the late, great Hilary Mantel, “Did the Enlightenment really occur, or was it just someone by the Styx lighting a cigarette?” (Is it still yesterday – Children of the Revolution – London Review of Books).

In a recent You Tube interview, journalist Tharindu Jayawardana chronicled the anti-Dr. Shafi conspiracy which helped set the stage for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 victory. A gynaecologist singlehandedly sterilising 4000 Sinhala-Buddhist mothers by squeezing their fallopian tubes during Caesarean operations; a claim that seems too preposterous to rate even a denial. Yet it was believed by millions of people as nothing but the truth. The ‘story’ of a terrorist Muslim doctor working to annihilate the Sinhala nation was published just a month after the Easter Sunday massacre. Channa Jayasumana blessed the tale with his seal of approval. Wimal Weerawansa called it the War of the Wombs. Respected gynaecologists stated that women couldn’t be sterilised by squeezing their fallopian tubes, but most of the public and a large section of media preferred to believe a dentist who insisted it could be done. The CID investigated the issue and dismissed it as a non-issue. The police arrested Dr. Shafi on no evidence, recorded statements afterwards and backdated them. The confluence of the absurd and the illegal advanced Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Saviour pretension.

In Holy Bones, Holy Dust,  Charles Freeman argues that most medieval Europeans lived in a ‘community of the supernatural,’ and points out that “…to shift one’s consciousness to the supernatural, the space between ‘heaven and earth’, is to lessen one’s attention to the immediacy of the natural world…” Rajapaksa politics too operate in a similar politico-psychological space which ignores/denies reality. Delusions of divine signs, illusions of grandeur, and phobia of enemies are used to make voters forget their ordinary, day-to-day earthly problems. The Kelani cobra story was not a singularity, but the final landmark in this road of lies. Not even national bankruptcy has been able to end that mindset, as the adoration of the Lotus Tower demonstrates.  Facts have no role in this spectacle, it never did.

In a functioning democracy, people too bear a share of responsibility for outcomes, be they positive or negative. The culpability of 6.9 million of our fellow citizens in our national plight should not be denied. The people are not innocent or blameless. This is not a fairytale in which the monster holds a land in thrall forcibly. In this story, most people invited the monster to takeover their land and their lives.

Even where leaders are forward looking, progressive projects can suffer defeat if a majority of people are not in tandem. The outcome of Chile’s referendum is an excellent case in point. Such dangers are particularly acute in times of economic and social anxiety. When ‘everything solid melts into air,’ past, or an imaginary version of it, could seem the only mooring left. In Italy, an extreme rightwing party which traces its lineage back to Mussolini’s Fascist party, is expected to gain power this Sunday. The new March on Rome is electoral. A democracy is shaped not just by its leaders but also by its people. A system change is impossible if enough people remain unchanged.

The absurdity is obvious, or should be. A people cannot vote in the corrupt and expect an honest government, vote in the inept and expect an efficient government, vote in the stupid and expect an intelligent government. Holding leaders to account is not enough. Those who vote for them too should be held accountable. The people are suffering, but many of them brought this disaster on themselves. They were deceived but they allowed themselves to be deceived. That is why an election, however necessary, can easily become a part of the problem rather than its solution, let alone the panacea that some claim it will be.

Haunted by old mistakes

Yatharoopa was a highly popular late night magazine programme aired on Rupavahini from August 2016 to March 2018. The programme aimed at debunking myths and superstitions and promoting reason and rational thinking.

In its second season, it was suddenly taken off the air. Media reports claimed that President Sirisena banned the programme at the request of a group of astrologers. Astrophysicist Kavan Ratnatunga made the same claim subsequently. President Sirisena reportedly said that as a state institution, the remit of the Rupavahini was to promote and not debunk astrology. Little wonder he made Mahinda Rajapaksa the PM seven months later.

In 2018, the 19th Amendment was in force. President Sirisena did not have the constitutional right to make unilateral decisions regarding a ministry that was not under him. Yet neither PM Wickremesinghe nor media minister Mangala Samaraweera objected publicly. The reason for their public silence is not hard to fathom. President Sirisena was going off the rails already. The UNP tried to avert disaster by alternately ignoring and humouring his antics. It didn’t save the government. The anti-constitutional coup was defeated not via accommodation but through resistance.

Winning elections is another matter, the pragmatic would argue. One must confirm, be what people want their leaders to be. So Sajith Premadasa distanced himself from the government he had been a part of for almost five years and adopted a Rajapaksa-lite approach characterised by temple hopping and a refusal to do or say anything remotely controversial (the only exception was his courageous stance on menstrual products) – in vain. Mangala Samaraweera felt that he had to leave electoral politics in order to be able to speak his mind. Truth has become a costly mistake in Sri Lanka by then. Telling truth to power could be dangerous. Telling truth to people could be disastrous.

The electorate’s unparalleled credulity in 2019 was the result of a presence and an absence. The Rajapaksas occupied the propaganda arena, promoting irrationality and absurdity. Anti-Rajapaksa forces avoided such propaganda battles or fled them when the cost was deemed too high, as demonstrated by the banning of Yatharoopa. Their evasion and disengagement backfired. How could voters be weaned away from Rajapaksa politics if they were subjected to only one kind of propaganda-diet? A no-holds barred resistance might have worked better.

The present is becoming overshadowed by the shades of those past errors. The appointment of 38 state ministers the same month indirect taxes were hiked is reminiscent of the UNP’s failed attempt to contain Maithripala Sirisena through appeasement. The ongoing repression smacks of Rajapaksa flavour, from the use of PTA to the prosecution of lawyer Dushmantha Weeraratne on September 9th for tooting his car-horn to the tune of kaputu kak near Galle Face. The Rajapaksas too arrested a young motorist for tooting his horn against a road-closure. The difference lies in the judicial response. In 2021, the young motorist was lambasted for exercising his constitutional right to peaceful protest. In 2022, the magistrate threw out the case against the lawyer and warned the police to study the law bef ore taking legal action against a person.

In Geneva, the government opted to reject the resolution on Sri Lanka in toto. This is not the Wickremesinghe-Samaraweera foreign policy of 2015-19 when Sri Lanka was open to the world and willing to take on legitimate concerns of the international community. This is a reversion to the Medamulana foreign policy of the Rajapaksas. The Rajapaksa habit of dealing with challenges by denying their existence or their severity is also making a comeback. Health Ministry rejected the UNICEF report on child malnutrition. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s truth telling days seem distant.

While Ranil Wickremesinghe blunders and the opposition exists in a parallel universe where their electoral victory is written in the stars, the Rajapaksas are back to weaving their web of lies and deception. Those who believe that Aragalaya has rid the popular mind of the Cobraesque myth should watch again the rapturous reception to the Lotus Tower. Lost in that marvel, the contribution that monstrosity and other like it made to our economic bankruptcy is forgotten. More than forgotten; that column of folly is being hailed as the economic way to go, a boon capable of attracting tourists and solving our foreign exchange crisis in one go. If the Rajapaksas resurface their old idea of building airports on various mountaintops and constructing an expressway right round the country, they may even end up being hailed as the only solution to the economic crisis the UNP, the SJB, and the JVP created, with help from Tamil and Muslim parties, traitors all.

The writer is a senior political commentator in Colombo.