Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Just Call Me IC" - Uber Intelligenz Ohne Weisheit

The Collective "Wisdom" of the U.S. Intelligence Community

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch


January 22, 2017  

They call themselves the U.S. “Intelligence Community,” or the IC. If you include the office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which in 2005 began as a crew of 12 people, including its director, and by 2008 had already grown to a staff of 1,750, there are 17 members (adding up to an alphabet soup of acronyms including the CIA, the NSA, and the DIA).

The IC spends something like $70 billion of your taxpayer dollars annually, mostly in secret, hires staggering numbers of private contractors from various warrior corporations to lend a hand, sucks up communications of every sort across the planet, runs a drone air force, monitors satellites galore, builds its agencies multi-billion-dollar headquarters and storage facilities, and does all of this, ostensibly, to provide the president and the rest of the government with the best information imaginable on what’s happening in the world and what dangers the United States faces.

Since 9/11, expansion has been the name of its game, as the leading intelligence agencies gained ever more power, prestige, and the big bucks, while wrapping themselves in an unprecedented blanket of secrecy. Typically, in the final days of the Obama administration, the National Security Agency was given yet more leeway to share the warrantless data it scoops up worldwide (including from American citizens) with ever more members of the IC.

And oh yes, in the weeks leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, several of those intelligence outfits found themselves in a knock-down, drag-out barroom brawl with our new tweeter-in-chief (who has begun threatening to downsize parts of the IC) over the possible Russian hacking of an American election and his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the process, they have received regular media plaudits for their crucial importance to all of us, our security and safety, along with tweeted curses from the then-president-elect.

Let me lay my own cards on the table here. Based on the relatively little we can know about the information the Intelligence Community has been delivering to the president and his people in these years, I’ve never been particularly impressed with its work. Again, given what’s available to judge from, it seems as if, despite its size, reach, money, and power, the IC has been caught “off-guard” by developments in our world with startling regularity and might be thought of as something closer to an “un-intelligence machine.” It’s always been my suspicion that, if a group of smart, out-of-the-box thinkers were let loose on purely open-source material, the U.S. government might actually end up with a far more accurate view of our world and how it works, not to speak of what dangers lie in store for us.

There’s just one problem in saying such things. In an era when the secrecy around the Intelligence Community has only grown and those leaking information from it have been prosecuted with a fierceness unprecedented in our history, we out here in what passes for the world don’t have much of a way to judge the value of the “product” it produces.

There is, however, one modest exception to this rule. Every four years, before a newly elected president enters the Oval Office, the National Intelligence Council, or NIC, which bills itself as “the IC’s center for long-term strategic analysis,” produces just such a document. The NIC is largely staffed from the IC (evidently in significant measure from the CIA), presents “senior policymakers with coordinated views of the entire Intelligence Community, including National Intelligence Estimates,” and does other classified work of various sorts.

Still, proudly and with some fanfare, it makes public one lengthy document quadrennially for any of us to read. Until now, that report has gone by the name of Global Trends with a futuristic year attached. The previous one, its fifth, made public just before Barack Obama’s second term in office, was Global Trends 2030. This one would have been the 2035 edition, had the NIC not decided to drop that futuristic year for what it calls fear of “false precision” (though projections of developments to 2035 are still part of the text). Instead, the sixth edition arrives as Global Trends: The Paradox of Progress, an anodyne phrase whose meaning is summarized this way:

“The achievements of the industrial and information ages are shaping a world to come that is both more dangerous and richer with opportunity than ever before. Whether promise or peril prevails will turn on the choices of humankind.” According to the NIC, in producing such documents its role is to identify “key drivers and developments likely to shape world events a couple of decades into the future” for the incoming president and his people.

Think of Global Trends as another example of how the American world of intelligence has expanded in these years. Starting relatively modestly in 1997, the IC decided to go where no intelligence outfit had previously gone and plant its flag in the future. Chalk that up as a bold decision, since the future might be thought of as the most democratic as well as least penetrable of time frames. After all, any one of us is free to venture there any time we choose without either financing or staff. It’s also a place where you can’t embed spies, you can’t gather communications from across the planet, you can’t bug the phones or hack into the emails of world leaders, no drones can fly, and there are no satellite images to study or interpret. Historically, until the NIC decided to make the future its property, it had largely been left to visionaries and kooks, dreamers and sci-fi writers -- people, in short, with a penchant for thinking outside the box.

In these years, however, in the heartland of the world’s “sole superpower,” the urge to control and surveil everything grew to monumental proportions leading the IC directly into the future in the only way it knew how to do anything: monumentally. As a result, the new Global Trends boasts about the size and reach of the operation that produced it. Its team “visited more than 35 countries and one territory, soliciting ideas and feedback from over 2,500 people around the world from all walks of life.”

As its massive acknowledgements section makes clear, along with all the unnamed officials and staff who did the basic work and many people who were consulted but could not be identified, the staff talked to everyone from a former prime minister and two foreign ministers to an ambassador and a sci-fi writer, not to mention “senior officials and strategists worldwide... hundreds of natural and social scientists, thought leaders, religious figures, business and industry representatives, diplomats, development experts, and women, youth, and civil society organizations around the world.”

The NIC’s two-year intelligence voyage into a universe that, by definition, must remain unknown to us all, even made “extensive use of analytic simulations -- employing teams of experts to represent key international actors -- to explore the future trajectories for regions of the world, the international order, the security environment, and the global economy.” In other words, to produce this unclassified report on how, according to NIC Chairman Gregory Treverton, “the NIC is thinking about the future,” it mounted a major intelligence operation that -- though no figures are offered -- must have cost millions of dollars. In the hands of the IC, the future like the present is, it seems, an endlessly expensive proposition.

A Grim Future Offset By Cheer


If you’re now thinking about tossing your Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, and Octavia Butler novels into the trash bin of history and diving into the newest Global Trends, then I’ve done you an enormous favor. I’ve already read it for you. And let me assure you that, unlike William Gibson’s “discovery” of cyberspace in his futuristic novel Neuromancer, the NIC’s document uncovers nothing in the future that hasn’t already been clearly identified in the present and isn’t obvious to you and just about everyone else on the planet.

Perhaps Global Trends’ greatest achievement is to transform that future into a reading experience so mind-numbing that it was my own vale of tears. A completely typical sentence:

“The most powerful actors of the future will be states, groups, and individuals who can leverage material capabilities, relationships, and information in a more rapid, integrated, and adaptive mode than in generations past.”

Admittedly, every now and then you stumble across a genuinely interesting stat or fact that catches your attention (“one in every 112 persons in the world is a refugee, an internally displaced person, or an asylum seeker”) and, on rare occasions, the odd thought stops you momentarily. Generally, though, the future as imagined by the wordsmiths of the IC is a slog, a kind of living nightmare of groupthink.

Whatever quirky and original brains may be hidden in the depths of the IC, on the basis of Global Trends you would have to conclude that its collective brain, the one it assumedly offers to presidents and other officials, couldn’t be more mundane. Start with this: published on the eve of the Trumpian accession, it can’t seem to imagine anything truly new under the sun, including Donald J. Trump (who goes unmentioned in this glimpse of our future). Even as we watch our present world being upended daily, the authors of Global Trends can’t conceive of the genuine upending of much on this planet.

Perhaps that helps explain why its leadership felt so caught off-guard and discombobulated by our new president. In him, after all, the American future is already becoming the unimaginable American present, tweet by tweet. (And let me here express a bit of sympathy for President Trump. If Global Trends is typical of the kind of thinking and presentation that goes into the President’s Daily Brief from the Intelligence Community, then I’m not surprised that he chose to start skipping those sessions for almost anything else, including Fox and Friends and spitball fights with Meryl Streep and John Lewis.)

As the IC imagines it, the near-future offers a relatively grim set of prospects, all transposed from obvious developments in our present moment, but each of them almost mechanistically offset by a hopeful conclusion: terrorism will undoubtedly spread and worsen (before it gets better); inequality will increase in a distinctly 1% world as anti-globalist sentiments sweep the planet and “populism,” along with more authoritarian ways of thinking, will continue to spread along with isolationist sentiments in the West (before other trends take hold); the risk of interstate conflict will increase thanks to China and Russia (even if the world will not be devastated by it); governing will grow harder globally and technology more potentially disruptive (though hope lurks close at hand); and the pressures of climate change are likely to create a more tenuous planet, short on food and especially water, and filled with the desperate and migrationally inclined (but is also likely to foster “a twenty-first-century set of common principles”). In essence, in the view of the National Intelligence Council, for every potentially lousy news trend of the present moment projected into the future, there’s invariably a saving grace, a sense that, as the report puts it, “the same trends generating near-term risks also can create opportunities for better outcomes over the long term.” In fact, by 2028 according to one of its scenarios, we could be “entering a new era of economic growth and prosperity.”

In truth, even the grimmest version of the IC’s future seems eerily mild, given the onrushing present -- from a Trumpian presidency to the recently reported reality that eight billionaires now control the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the planet’s population. (Only a year ago, it took 62 billionaires to hit that mark.) According to the Engelhardt Intelligence Council, the likelihood is that we’re already entering a future far more extreme than anything the NIC and its 2,500-plus outside experts can imagine.

The Global Trends crew seems incapable of imagining futures in which some version of the present doesn’t rule all. Despite the global wars of the last century that leveled significant parts of the planet, the arrival of climate change as history’s possible deal-breaker, and the 9/11 attacks, disjunctures are simply not in their playbook. As a result, their idea of futuristic extremes couldn’t be milder. In one of the report’s three scenarios, even the surprise use of a nuclear weapon for the first time since August 9, 1945 -- in a 2028 confrontation between India and Pakistan -- is relieved of most of its potential punch. The bomb goes off not over a major city, killing hundreds of thousands, but in a desert area. And at what seems to be remarkably little cost, the shock of that single explosion miraculously brings a world of hostile powers, including the United States, China, and Russia, together in a strikingly upbeat fashion. (By 2028, it seems that Mr. Smith has indeed gone to Washington and so, in Global Trends, “President Smith” heartwarmingly shares a Nobel Peace Prize with China’s president for the “series of confidence-building measures and arms control agreements” that followed the nuclear incident.)

I, of course, don’t have thousands of experts to consult in thinking about the future, but based on scientific work already on the record, I could still create a very different South Asian scenario, which wouldn’t exactly be a formula for uniting the planet behind a better security future. Just imagine that one of the “tactical” nuclear weapons the Pakistani military is already evidently beginning to store at its forward military bases was put to use in response to an Indian military challenge. Imagine, then, that it triggered not world peace, but an ongoing nuclear exchange between the two powers, each with significant arsenals of such weaponry. The results in South Asia could be mindboggling -- up to 21 million direct deaths by one estimate. Scientists speculate, however, that the effects of such a nuclear war would not be restricted to the region, but would spark a nuclear-winter scenario globally, destroying crops across the planet and possibly leading to up to a billion deaths.

Living in an All-American World


Such grim futures are, however, not for the NIC. Think of them as American imperial optimists and dreamers only masquerading as realists. If you want proof of this, it’s easy enough to find in Global Trends. Here, in fact, is the most curious aspect of that document: the members of the U.S. Intelligence Community evidently can’t bear to look at the last 15 years of their own imperial history. Instead, in taking possession of the future, they simply leave the post-9/11 American past in a roadside ditch and move on. In the future they imagine, much of that past is missing in action, including, of course, Donald J. Trump. (As a group, they must be Clintonistas. At least I can imagine Hillary wonkishly making her way through their document, but The Donald? Don’t make me laugh.)

Give them credit at least for accepting the obvious: that we will no longer be on a “unipolar planet” dominated by a single superpower, but in a world of “spheres of influence.” (“For better and worse, the emerging global landscape is drawing to a close an era of American dominance following the Cold War...”) But you can search their document in vain for the word “decline.” Forget that they were putting together their report at the very moment that the first openly declinist candidate for president was wowing crowds -- who sensed that their country and their own lives were on the downhill slope -- with the slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Nor were they about to take striking aspects of present-day America and project them into a truly grim future. Take, for example, something that amused me greatly: you can search Global Trends in vain for all but the most passing reference to the U.S. military. You know, the outfit that our recent presidents keep praising as the “finest fighting force” in world history. Search their document top to bottom and you still won’t have the faintest idea that the U.S. military has been fighting ceaselessly in victory-less conflicts for the past 15 years, and that its “war on terror” efforts have somehow only fueled the spread of terrorist movements, while leaving behind a series of failed or failing states across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa. None of that is projected into the future, nor is the militarization of this country (or its police), even though the retired generals now populating the new Trump administration speak directly to this very point.

Or to pick another example, how about the fact that, in a world in which a single country -- the very one to which the IC belongs -- garrisons the planet with hundreds of military bases from Europe to Japan, Bahrain to Afghanistan, there is but a single futuristic mention of a military base, and it’s a Chinese one to be built on a Fijian Island deep in the Pacific. (A running gag of Global Trends involves future newspaper headlines like this one from 2019: “China Buys Uninhabited Fijian Island To Build Military Base.”) What will happen to the present U.S. military framework for dominating the planet? You certainly won’t find out here.

But don’t think that the United States itself isn’t on the mind of those who produced this document. After all, among all the stresses of the decades to come, as the IC’s futurologists imagine them, there’s one key to positive national survival in 2035 and that’s what they call “resilience.” (“[T]he very same trends heightening risks in the near term can enable better outcomes over the longer term if the proliferation of power and players builds resilience to manage greater disruptions and uncertainty.”)

And which country is the most obviously resilient on Planet Earth? That’s the $100 (but not the 100 ruble or 100 yuan) question. So go ahead, guess -- and if you don’t get the answer right, you’re not the reader I think you are.

Still, just in case you’re not sure, here’s how Global Trends sums the matter up:

“For example, by traditional measures of power, such as GDP, military spending, and population size, China’s share of global power is increasing. China, however, also exhibits several characteristics, such as a centralized government, political corruption, and an economy overly reliant on investment and net exports for growth -- which suggest vulnerability to future shocks.

“Alternatively, the United States exhibits many of the factors associated with resilience, including decentralized governance, a diversified economy, inclusive society, large land mass, biodiversity, secure energy supplies, and global military power projection capabilities and alliances.”

So if there’s one conclusion to be drawn from the NIC’s mighty two-year dive into possible futures on a planet we still garrison and that’s wracked by wars we’re still fighting, it might be summed up this way: don’t be China, be us.

Of course, no one should be surprised by such a conclusion, since you don’t rise in the government by contrarian thinking but by going with the herd. This isn’t the sort of document you read expecting to be surprised, not when the nightmare of every bureaucracy is just that: the unexpected and unpredicted. The Washington bubble is evidently too comfortable and the world far too frightening a place to imagine a fuller range of what might be coming at us. The spooks of the NIC may be living off the money our fear sends their way, but don’t kid yourself for a second, they’re afraid too, or they could never produce a document like Global Trends: The Paradox of Progress.

As a portrait not of the future but of the anxieties of American power in a world it can’t control, this document provides the rest of us with a vivid portrait of the group of people least likely to offer us long-term security.

The last laugh here belongs to Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, and other authors of their ilk. If you want to be freed to think about the many possible futures that face us, futures that we will help create, then skip Global Trends and head for the kinds of books that might free your mind to think afresh, not bind it to a world growing more dismal by the day.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

The New Boss and the Old Middle East

Transfer of Power in the United States

by Mazin Qumsiyeh


January 22, 2017

"Transfer of power" in the United States : The White House used to be occupied by Zionists of one tactic and now it is occupied by Zionists with a different tactic (both aiming for the same goals of hegemony and racism). Obama came to office promising to end the Israeli occupation and left having strengthened it.

Let us hope that Trump who came promising to strengthen the Israeli occupation will (through hubris) cause its demise.

The Trump speech was according to Gideon Levy of Haaretz eerily similar to "Deutschland uber Alles" Hitlerian speeches of the 1930's. Only time will tell what Trump and his Zionist coterie will do but it is already inspiring the ultra right factions of Netanyahu and his settler cabinet.

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or an animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Micah 2: “1 Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands. 2 They covet fields and then seize them, And houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance. 3 Therefore thus says the LORD, "Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time…”


The people are frightened and yet energized. Millions demonstrated in cities across the globe yesterday (women marches). The crowds demonstrating in Washington DC a day after the inauguration were certainly higher than attended the inauguration. Hundreds were arrested during the inauguration and some disrupted the inauguration with “We the people…”. People demonstrating either they preferred the first kind of Zionist occupation (Obama) or they support freedom from that occupation (hence lots of Palestinian flags). Stirrings of discontent also give an opportunity of dialog about things and to move to change which can only come from the people.

Locally here in Palestine, we see Zionism getting a green light to ethnically cleanse more with impunity. Netanyahu want the US to engage in more conflicts on behalf of his occupation (on Syria and Iran). Israeli forces destroyed many homes in the village of Um Al-Hiran in the Naqab (Negev). They killed one Palestinian (a citizen of Israel). See https://youtu.be/aYX2LdMq64o In a related matter, Tzipi Livni (ex foreign minister) canceled a trip to Bruxles fearing questioning for Gaza war crimes.
https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/did-war-crimes-summons-force-tzipi-livni-cancel-brussels-trip

Resistance in various forms continues. PMNH in collaboration with women committee of the religious ministry and Al-Rowwad Center volunteers planted trees near the segregation/apartheid wall in Aida refugee camp area. We had three foreign delegations last week. We enjoy working with local and international volunteers. Our fieldwork continues and the museum is busy almost 18 hours per day seven days a week (we also always have deadlines of proposals for grants and for coursework). We finished courses except one left with the final Wednesday at Birzeit University (in molecular biology. We started a new project looking at snail chromosomes. The past week we took two trips one to Aboud (near Ramallah) and one to South Hebron Hills today. Professor Zuhair Amr (Zoologist from Jordan) and Mr. Shadi Adawi (Medical entomologist) are here finishing up manuscripts. We are now publishing one or two papers a month. Here are the last two published articles that might be of interest:

-Khlaif, N and MB Qumsiyeh. 2017. Genotoxicity of recycling electronic waste in Idhna, Hebron District, Palestine. International Journal of Environmental Studies. 74(1):66-74. DOI: 10.1080/00207233.2016.1236650 (let us know if you like a reprint or PDF)

- Qumsiyeh, MB and EN Handal. 2017. Environmental Stewardship via a Nascent Natural History Museum in Palestine. Ornithological Society of the Middle East
http://www.osme.org/content/environmental-stewardship-nascent-natural-history-museum-palestine

Former Newspaper Editor Who Exposed CIA Found Dead
http://yournewswire.com/german-newspaper-editor-exposed-cia-dead/

259 Journalists jailed worldwide. Seven by Israeli forces according to Committee to Protect Journalists (actually the number is much higher)
https://cpj.org/imprisoned/2016.php

Come visit us

Mazin Qumsiyeh ~ A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home Professor and (volunteer) Director Palestine Museum of Natural History Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability Bethlehem University Occupied Palestine
http://qumsiyeh.org
http://palestinenature.org
Join me on facebook
https://www.facebook.com/mazin.qumsiyeh.9

Selective Outrage and Salvaging the Irretrievable Trump

Selectivity in Trashing Trump

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News


January 21, 2017

To say that Donald Trump is an imperfect messenger for some reasonable messages doesn’t do justice to the word “imperfect.” But he is right to note that Official Washington has gone far off-track in recent decades and that the Establishment needs shaking up. For instance, in his Inaugural Address, President Trump made clear that he would break with the orthodoxy of neoconservatism and liberal interventionism that has led to endless wars in the Middle East and a dangerous New Cold War with Russia.
Police maintain barriers to control anti-Trump 
protesters near the presidential inauguration, 
Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo credit: Robert Parry) 


 Trump declared:

“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.”

That sentiment reflects a traditional U.S. approach to the world, followed by America’s first presidents who warned against “entangling alliances” and articulated best by President John Quincy Adams who said in 1821 that while America will speak on behalf of liberty, “she has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.

“Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”

Over the past several decades – even after the end of the Cold War –American presidents have violated this founding precept as they repeatedly went abroad “in search of monsters to destroy.”

These missions – designed and advocated by Washington’s dominant neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks – have not only wasted trillions of dollars and cost the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers but the projects have failed to improve national security, have led to massive bloodshed in the targeted countries and have undermined global stability.

No Accountability


Yet, it has been a sign of Official Washington’s disconnect from reality that the architects of these failed endeavors have escaped accountability and indeed have solidified their control over the foreign policy establishment and the mainstream news media.

Despite the bloody fiascos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and other unfortunate countries where the neocons and liberal hawks have prescribed “regime change,” these esteemed know-it-alls have systematically pushed aside all rivals, including old-school “realists” and peace proponents.

The confirmation gauntlets that have confronted Trump’s nominees for State, Defense and other national security posts have revealed a near-unanimous bipartisanship in favor of a continuation of neocon/liberal-hawk orthodoxy, demanding pugnacious approaches toward Iran, Russia, Syria and China.

So, while there is a great deal to worry about from President Trump and his administration – particularly an apparent hostility toward climate-change science, disdain for minority rights and the embrace of right-wing law-and-order nostrums – there could be a new opening for conflict resolution and a return to traditional diplomacy. Already, there has been a housecleaning at the State Department, where the biographies of some of the most prominent neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, have disappeared.

Trump’s Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson is regarded as a pragmatic businessman who has little patience for the destructive “regime change” strategies of the neocons and liberal hawks. However, because of that and Tillerson’s desire for better relations with Russia, many Democrats and some Republicans appear eager to block his confirmation and force Trump to pick someone more acceptable to the neocon/liberal-hawk foreign policy establishment.

Reasons to Resist


Progressives and Democrats have every right and reason to express revulsion at Trump’s crude remarks about women, Mexicans and others — and to resist Trump if he pursues the failed environmental, economic and domestic policies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But there seems to be an attitude of rejecting everything associated with Trump.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]On Friday when I was moving among protesters on the outskirts of Trump’s inauguration, I noticed a large number of signs denouncing Trump’s interest in détente with Russia. There were repeated references to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to the CIA’s unproven claims that Putin approved the release of Democratic emails showing the party hierarchy’s hostility to Sen. Bernie Sanders and revealing the contents of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street and some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

This CIA-initiated narrative that Putin somehow rigged the election for Trump has become an accepted wisdom not only in Official Washington but among much of the Democratic Party and within the progressive movement. Little interest is shown toward the lack of evidence provided by the U.S. intelligence community and the dubious reasoning involved, since it would have been a huge gamble for Putin to have interfered in the U.S. election and then faced the likely outcome of an angry President Hillary Clinton seeking revenge once she took office.

There’s also a logical inconsistency in portraying Trump as a Manchurian candidate, since the idea of putting such a secret agent in the White House would involve the person talking tough against Russia during the campaign – to garner political support – rather than declaring publicly a desire for better relations with Russia, a position that was widely viewed as harmful to Trump’s chances.

Trump never hid his interest in avoiding a costly New Cold War with Russia and took a rhetorical beating for it, both during the Republican primaries and during the general election. That would not have been the approach of a true Manchurian candidate.

A Current Danger


But the current danger for Democrats and progressives is that – by bashing everything that Trump says and does – they will further alienate the white working-class voters who became his base and will push away anti-war activists.

There is a risk that the Left will trade places with the Right on the question of war and peace, with Democrats and progressives associating themselves with Hillary Clinton’s support for “endless war” in the Middle East, the political machinations of the CIA, and a New Cold War with Russia, essentially moving into an alliance with the Military (and Intelligence) Industrial Complex.

Many populists already view the national Democrats as elitists disdainful of the working class, promoters of harmful “free trade” deals, and internationalists represented by the billionaires at the glitzy annual confab in Davos, Switzerland.

If — in a rush to demonize and impeach President Trump — Democrats and progressives solidify support for wars of choice in the Middle East, a New Cold War with Russia and a Davos-style elitism, they could further alienate many people who might otherwise be their allies.

In other words, selectivity in opposing and criticizing Trump – where he rightly deserves it – rather than opportunism in rejecting everything that Trump says might make more sense. A movement built entirely on destroying Trump could drop Democrats and progressives into some politically destructive traps.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons: the Anti-Realists” and “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Logan's Run: Losing It Twice, Liberal Trump Backlash Risks Blowback Lash

Going Over the Top in Trump-Bashing

by Norman Solomon  - Consortium News


January 19, 2017

Heading into the last week of the Obama administration, 35 Democrats in the House sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging her to appoint an independent Special Counsel because Donald Trump,

“has repeatedly engaged in actions constituting unauthorized foreign policy in violation of the Logan Act.”
President-elect Donald Trump. 
(Photo: donaldjtrump.com)

Democratic Party fury toward President-elect Trump has led some progressives to suggest a rash scheme for invoking an archaic law to punish his deviation from foreign policy orthodoxy, warns Norman Solomon. 



Dating back to 1799, the law has resulted in a grand total of one indictment (during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency) and no conviction. But the Logan Act remains a convenient statute to brandish against disruptors of foreign-policy orthodoxies.

The Jan. 12 letter — relying on an arcane and wobbly relic of a law — is an example of opportunism that isn’t even opportune. Worse, it’s an effort to spur Justice Department action that would establish a dangerous precedent.

When the letter charges that “in several cases Mr. Trump’s actions directly contravene and undermine official positions of the United States government,” the complaint rings hollow. In our lifetimes, countless private citizens — and quite a few members of Congress — have sought to contravene and undermine official U.S. positions. Often that has been for the better.

The members of Congress who signed the letter should know that. Many are ostensibly aligned with the kind of dissent that has been — and will be — essential to pull this country away from disastrous wars overseas. More than half of the letter’s signers — 19 of the 35 — are in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

It should be obvious that the Logan Act is antithetical to free speech and other vital liberties. The law provides for up to three years in prison for “any citizen of the United States” who — without authorization from the U.S. government — “directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government,” with intent to influence that government “in relation to disputes or controversies with the United States.”

Freedom of Speech


Steve Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas, points out that the First and Fifth Amendments “do not look too kindly on either content-based restrictions on speech (which the Logan Act clearly is), or criminal laws that do not clearly articulate the line between lawful and unlawful conduct (which the Logan Act may well not do).”

In recent decades, the specter of the Logan Act has been used to threaten legislators who went outside an administration’s policy boundaries. In 1975, Sens. George McGovern and John Sparkman faced accusations that they’d violated the Act by going to Havana and talking with Cuban officials. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan said that Jesse Jackson’s efforts in Cuba and Nicaragua may have violated the Logan Act.

Later in the 1980s, Reagan’s National Security Council considered invoking the Logan Act to stop House Speaker Jim Wright’s involvement in negotiations between the Sandinista government and the Contra forces that the CIA made possible in Nicaragua. Twenty years later, in 2007, another House speaker — Nancy Pelosi — faced accusations that she’d run afoul of the Logan Act by going to Damascus and negotiating with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Now, it’s sad to see dozens of Democrats trying to throw the Logan Act at Trump when there are so many crucial matters to address — healthcare, civil rights, environmental protection, social programs and much more. While a multitude of legitimate and profound issues are at hand — with an urgent need to concentrate on blocking the GOP’s legislative agenda — the letter clamoring for a Logan Act investigation of Trump is an instance of counterproductive partisan zeal run amuck.

The idea that a U.S. citizen — whether Donald Trump, Jesse Jackson or anyone else — does not have a right to dialogue with officials of foreign governments is pernicious and undemocratic. We should assert that right, no matter who is in the Oval Office.

While some members of Congress are indignant that Trump’s actions “directly contravene and undermine official positions of the United States government,” the history of U.S. foreign policy warns against automatic deference to official U.S. positions. Citizens have often been wise when they sought to contravene and undermine the U.S. government’s positions.

Today, entrenched forces in Washington remain committed to foreign policies more in line with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism” than the statecraft of real diplomacy. Citizens should push back against officials at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue who cite the Logan Act as an argument for conformity or use it as a tool for intimidation.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org, which has 750,000 members. He is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. [This article first appeared as an opinion article at The Hill at http://www.thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/314917-democrats-need-to-stop-throwing-everything-they-can-at.]

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Icing Dissent: Trump Team Tests Repression Waters

On Verge of Trump Era, Republicans Push New Laws to 'Chill Protest' Nationwide

by Nika Knight - Common Dreams


January 19, 2017

Republican legislators are proposing laws that would criminalize nonviolent protest in North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington, and Iowa

Republican lawmakers around the country are pushing legislation that would criminalize and penalize nonviolent protest, apparently anticipating an upswell of civic engagement during the coming Trump administration.

Spencer Woodman reported at The Intercept Thursday on the anti-protest bills proposed in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, and North Dakota.

"Over the past few weeks, Republican legislators across the country have quietly introduced a number of proposals to criminalize and discourage peaceful protest," Woodman wrote.

Among a swath of bills proposed in North Dakota that would allow police to crack down further on public protests, the state legislature put forth one that would legalize running over protesters, as Common Dreams reported.

It appears GOP lawmakers in other states are thinking similarly.

Woodman summarizes:

In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed "economic terrorism." Republicans in Michigan introduced and then last month shelved an anti-picketing law that would increase penalties against protestors and would make it easier for businesses to sue individual protestors for their actions. And in Iowa a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to crack down on highway protests.

"This trend of anti-protest legislation dressed up as 'obstruction' bills is deeply troubling," Lee Rowland, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Woodman.

"A law that would allow the state to charge a protester $10,000 for stepping in the wrong place, or encourage a driver to get away with manslaughter because the victim was protesting, is about one thing: chilling protest," Woodman added.



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Passion of the Chrystia: Freeland's Conversion on the Road to Davos

Canada's New Foreign Affairs Minister is on 2014 Russia Travel Ban List

by Roger Annis - New Cold War


Jan 11, 2017

Canada’s new, right-wing and pro-globalization minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, is one of 13 pro-Ukraine coup extremists who are banned by the Russian government from travel to Russia as of March 2014. The ban measure nearly three years ago was a retaliatory measure against the decision of the Canadian government then led by Stephen Harper to join economic and political sanctions against Russia and Crimea that were levied by the United States and the European Union.
Image: Joseph Morris, Flickr

The U.S. and EU sanctions were enacted in retaliation against the Crimean people for conducting a referendum on March 15, 2014 on whether they wished to end the non-consensual affiliation of Crimea to Ukraine that was imposed by the leaders of the Soviet Union in 1954.

The referendum question asked if the Crimean people wished to secede from Ukraine and join (rejoin) the Russian Federation. It passed overwhelmingly. But rather comically, the NATO and EU countries stand by the 1954 decision of leaders of the Soviet Union.

The anti-Russia, pro-right wing Ukraine sanctions imposed by the Harper government in March 2014 and since then are still supported by all the parties in the Canadian parliament. Also supported unanimously is the Harper government’s 2014 decision, ongoing, to dispatch Canadian soldiers to train the Ukrainian army and extremist paramilitaries waging civil war in the east of the country.

Canada’s elected Parliamentarians unanimously supported the provocative move by the NATO military alliance in 2016 to establish four permanent ‘combat brigades’ along the Russian border in Poland and the Baltic states. Canada is leading the NATO brigade being established in Latvia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked on January 10 how Freeland would conduct relations with Russia while banned from travel to there. He said, “As to how she gets along with Russia, well, she speaks fluent Russian.

“We continue to stand strongly with Ukraine and… continue to condemn in no uncertain terms the illegitimate and illegal actions of the Russians in Ukraine, in the Donbass and Crimea.”

Maria Zaharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, told CBC News on January 11 that the original Russian travel sanctions were a “countermeasure” in response to those Canada imposed on Russia. “Withdrawing her from the list is an issue of reciprocity, mirror-like,” Zaharova told CBC, adding that nothing prevents Freeland from meeting with Russian officials outside Russia.

“We are ready to co-operate and to improve relations with Canada,” she said. “We are ready to normalize relations with Canada.”

Of the 13 Canadians banned in March 2014, seven were ministers and other elected members of Parliament of the governing Conservatives, two were advisors to Harper and three were opposition MPs–Irwin Cotler and Chrystia Freeland from the Liberal Party and Paul Dewar from the New Democratic Party. (News story here.) The 13th person is Paul Grod, president of the extreme-right Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

The sanctions against Russia stem from the Russian government’s decision to recognize the democratic legitimacy of the Crimea referendum and accept Crimea into the federation. Today, two Crimean entities are affiliated to the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the Federal City of Sevastopol. The Russian Federation is divided into 85 republics and other constituents, including three federal cities–Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sevastopol.

Chrystia Freeland has been one of the most vocal extremists in Canada in support of the civil war being waged by the governing regime in eastern Ukraine. At the time of her banning from travel to Russia, she tweeted

“Love Russ lang/culture, loved my yrs in Moscow; but it’s an honour to be on Putin’s sanction list, esp in company of friends Cotler & Grod.”

Freeland has written frequent anti-Russia screeds in support of the Ukrainian government. Here are two of them, published not long before she became Canada’s Minister of International Trade following her Liberal Party’s election victory in October 2015: What does Putin want?, Jan 2015; and, The real fight in Ukraine, July 2015.

Freeland as key proponent of globalized capitalism


As part of the cabinet shuffle which assigned Freeland to foreign affairs, she will retain responsibility for existing trade agreements with the United States, including the 1994 North American Free Trade Pact.

Freeland was much in the news earlier this year when as minister of international trade, she tried to steer through a Canada-EU ‘free trade’ (unrestricted investment) deal with the countries of the European Union called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The deal initially failed when the Wallonia region of Belgium rejected it, but subsequent arm-twisting by the EU and the Belgian government against the region saw Wallonia capitulate. The deal now awaits approval by the EU Parliament.

Canada’s capitalist class is worried that the Donald Trump presidency might affect their privileged access to the United States market as well as investment decisions in Canada by U.S. capitalists. This article in The Globe and Mail analyzes prospects for the auto assembly industry, by far the most important manufacturing industry in the province of Ontario. Some 110,000 workers are directly employed in auto and truck assembly and parts manufacture.

According to the Globe, more than $60-billion (Canadian) worth of cars and trucks assembled in Ontario are sold annually in the U.S.

U.S. and Japanese carmakers have invested disproportionately in manufacture in Ontario for the purpose of export into the U.S. because of the typically low (favorable) exchange rate of the Canadian dollar and because unlike in the United States, a large part of the the health care costs for auto industry employees is covered by Canada’s state-operated health care industry.

But Canada continues to lose place to Mexico. Canada is the tenth largest auto assembly country in the world; Mexico now sits at number seven. Canada’s share of North American vehicle assembly has dropped from 16 per cent in 1993 to 13 per cent in 2016, while Mexico’s share has grown during the same period from eight per cent to 22 per cent (Globe and Mail).

New motor vehicle sales (cars and trucks) in Canada in 2015 were 1.94 million, of which 78 per cent were manufactured in North America. About 2.3 million vehicles were manufactured in Canada that year.

A lengthy article on Chrystia Freeland’s past business and political career was published by Moscow-based writer John Helmer in November 2015 (here). Her meetings with Donald Trump or his billionaire cabinet members should be interesting: in 2012, she published a book titled ‘Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else’.

Chrystia Freeland has traveled a long way since publication of her 2012 book. She is a vociferous proponent in favour of expanded, unfettered, globalized capitalism, so-called free trade.

Related news:
 Freeland’s promotion a ‘very, very bold move’ in Canada-Russia relations, news article published by Canada’s anti-Russia, state-run broadcaster CBC, Jan 11, 2017

Chrystia Freeland and the plutocrats, by Konrad Yakabuski, columnist, Globe and Mail, Jan 11, 2017

This month last year, Chrystia Freeland was with her boss in Davos. The Swiss resort and site of the World Economic Forum, Ms. Freeland once wrote, is where the globe’s plutocrats go to “figure out their party line.” The onetime chronicler of the superrich had always seemed unusually at ease among the 0.1 per cent she claimed to criticize. By last year, as a key player in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet, she seemed utterly in her element among them.

After the event, Ms. Freeland posted photos on her website of her with George Soros and Richard Branson…

The Future of Now: Close Shaves for Modi's Demonetised Indians

Modis Operandi: When India went ‘Keshless’

by Satya Sagar - Pacific Free Press


January 18, 2017

Much later, historians in the 22nd Century would call it a ‘close shave’ for Indian democracy and a ‘hair razing’ experience for millions of citizens. And yet, when it happened real-time - everyone was simply lost for words.

The year was 2018 and in an emotional address on primetime TV, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had exhorted his countrymen to part with all their hair to ‘Save the Nation’. There was simply no precedent, in all of world history, for such a ‘barber-ous’ policy.

Cultivation or possession of black hair by Indian citizens had been made a criminal offence, punishable by up to 7 years in prison. Everyone would have to deposit their dark locks at specially designated centres, that would be open 10 AM to 5 PM on all days (except Tuesdays and national holidays).

The Hair Bank of India (HBI), set up to regulate all hair circulating in the country, explained only black hair from citizens above the age of 16 years would be confiscated by the state. All others could chill and let their hair down – nothing to worry at all (till the next bizarre Message to the Nation). The HBI would not disclose however, how much hair was already in their possession when the policy was declared, citing possible ‘threat to their lives’.

The new rules were in fact announced on 8 November 2018 – exactly two years after Modi’s shocking demonetisation decree - that had plunged the entire Indian economy into crisis, brought business to a halt and thrown millions out of jobs. There was already much misery in the nation, when Modi took to the airwaves.

“Mitron! Brothers and Sisters! We need every patriotic Indian to sacrifice their black hair to strike terrorism at its very roots” he said, not bothering to explain the connection between the first and second part of the sentence. Later one of his ministers explained the two were linked as ‘surgical’ skills were required to accomplish both tasks.

The constant use of theatre, along with such dubious logic, had become a trademark Narendra Modi strategy the Indian public was quite familiar with by now. In fact so much so, the method - dubbed ‘Modis Operandi’ - was already being taught in top business schools around the country and even abroad.

Modi bhakts believed this contribution alone entitled their leader to a Nobel Prize – in any field - economics, medicine, physics, peace whatever, as long as it was a real Nobel Prize (like the one given to ‘Barrack’).

Further, according to them, Modi was the greatest thinker India had ever produced since Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU). This man DDU, who Modi considered his political mentor, was famous for Earth-shattering wisdom like, “Ask not what your country can do for YOU, Ask what your country can DO to other countries!” or “Give me your blood, sweat and tears and I will give you FREE counselling on character building”.

It was not long before the HBI started issuing a series of amendments to the original order. One clarification said union cabinet ministers, holy men, RSS members above the rank of shakha pramukhs and movie stars were exempted from provisions of the new policy. Subsequently the agency excluded petrol pump owners, Marathi theatre personalities and the children/relatives of Bal Thackeray also – the last being justified by the claim that taking the ‘Bal’ out of a Thackeray could result in sudden death.

Being very obedient citizens thousands of Indians stood for long hours in the sun, waiting in queues to have their hair taken away – only to be disappointed when saloons turned them away. The government it seems had failed to ensure adequate supply of blades and sharp knives (these had already been allocated for use in the state assembly elections by the ruling party).

They were nevertheless very happy standing in queues, simply because – like with the Indian caste system- no matter how far behind you were, there was always some bloke who arrived a little later than you did. And after all, as DDU once said “Happiness lies in measuring the misery of thy neighbour”.

Many Indians however, did muster enough courage to say on television the policy was ‘good for the country’ but ‘poorly implemented’. What they said privately of course cannot be printed or circulated on social media – as that may lead to charges of sedition and make this article unfit for children to read.

Interestingly, some Indians even argued strongly in favour of the government’s idiotic move, claiming that Modi was cleverly diverting attention from real issues such as poverty, joblessness and ecological disaster. Acknowledging these, they said, might ‘alert the enemy’ to the nation’s vulnerabilities. This was, in other words, a major psyops program meant to make foes scratch their heads while Indians patted their own bald ones.

The suave and smooth-talking Indian Finance Minister said that Indians, minus the burden of hair, would be now much more relaxed and lighter. This could enable India to move faster and get ahead of the rest of the world. As everything in the universe was circular, by going very far ahead he claimed the country would actually return to its ‘Golden Hindu Past’.

Not surprisingly, there were also ‘anti-national’ sections of the population, who tried to subvert the new law’s noble objectives by any means. The Indian spirit of ‘jugaad’ – which basically means paying scant respect to both the Indian Penal Code and the laws of Nature - was on full display.

Many converted their black hair into white easily, using a variety of creams and lotions sold by a yoga guru – who advised the public to stand on their heads to avoid detection by the police in case his products did not work.

In the meanwhile - as people started asking whether Shaving the Nation was really the same as Saving the Nation - several conspiracy theories emerged. One was that a bunch of scientists, at a secret lab in the United States, had found a way of converting human hair into an extremely sought-after mineral used in the electronics and mobile phone industries. The Indian government’s move, it was believed, was to sell all the hair they could lay their scissors on to global buyers, to pay off India’s foreign debts.

“Yes, Indian citizens will be physically deficit because of our policy, but this will surely help reduce the country’s fiscal deficit” said a portly, balding ruling party spokesman with big eyes, on a TV talk show.

Government propaganda painted the vision of a future India where energy would be abundant – thanks to solar rays reflected from a billion plus shining Indian heads. ‘Give me HAIR and I will take you THERE!’ was the new Modi mantra, promoted everywhere by state agencies.

The hyper-patriotic media ran silly stories about how India would now definitely become the world’s biggest superpower since Indians had more facial and body hair than the Chinese, who despite their larger population had less to harvest.

It was somewhere in the middle of these completely nonsensical happenings that the big story broke – a small Gujarati newspaper had finally cracked the truth behind the regime’s ‘war on black hair’.

According to the Surat-based newspaper, the entire policy of confiscating the nation’s treasure of black hair was born out of linguistic confusion over the term ‘cashless’. It seems, given the number of Gujaratis in top government positions, at some point, they had started referring to it as ‘keshless’. For long it was just a little joke circulating within the top echelons of power.

Later, when the ‘cashless economy’ idea proved an obvious failure, top bureaucrats convinced Mr Modi to quietly shift the goalpost and call for a ‘keshless economy’ instead. The focus of attack would not be black ‘cash’ but black ‘kesh’ , which was the only thing of any value left with most Indians anyway.

The final push came when the idea was backed by a little-known, conservative think tank, which claimed Brahmins like Chanakya in ancient India had achieved wisdom and power by shearing hair, while ordinary mortals wasted time decorating their mane.

Modi liked the concept for purely political reasons. Since his rivals were much younger than him – the move would keep them busy guarding their black wealth - while he romped home to victory in the next general elections.

The Gujarati billionaire, who pushed the idea of demonetisation back in 2016 to boost his digital money business, was not very amused though. He apparently told Modi, “Oh tari !! Mein cashless kidhu tu, keshless nai.. babuchak !” or “What the hell! I said 'cashless' not 'keshless' you idiot!”

Modi’s response, according to very lowly placed sources, went something like this: "Listen, what the public really wants in this country is a 'Mukeshless Economy' and I am desperately trying to keep them distracted with various strategies. You are the idiot and an ungrateful one too".

Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health worker who can be reached at sagarnama@gmail.com. This article was written in response to Mr Modi’s statement in Chennai recently, at a memorial for the late Cho Ramaswamy, about the importance of ‘humour and satire’. He asked for it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Summary Instruction: How Israel Executes Its Palestinian Policy

The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel

by Ramzy Baroud  - ramzybaroud.net


January 17, 2017

For some, the ‘manslaughter’ conviction - following the murder by Israeli army medic, Elor Azaria, of already incapacitated Palestinian man, Fattah al-Sharif - is finally settling a protracted debate regarding where Israelis stand on Palestinian human rights.

Nearly 70 percent of the Israeli public supports calls to pardon the convicted soldier, who is largely perceived among Israelis as the "child of us all."

Israeli leaders are also lining up to lend their support to Azaria and his family. These sympathetic politicians include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and ministers Naftali Bennett and Miri Regev, among others. Leading opposition leaders are also on board.

Pro-Israeli pundits, who never miss an opportunity to highlight Israel's supposed moral ascendency took to social media, describing how the indictment further demonstrates that Israel is still a country of law and order.

They seem to conveniently overlook palpable facts. Reporting on the verdict, ‘The Times of Israel’, for example, wrote that "last time an IDF soldier was convicted of manslaughter was in 2005, for the killing of British civilian Tom Hurndall two years earlier."

Between these dates, and years prior, thousands of Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip alone, mostly in the Israeli wars of 2008-9, 2012 and 2014. Although thousands of children and civilians were killed and wounded in Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Territories and, despite international outcries against Israel's violations of international law, there is yet to be a single conviction in Israeli courts.

But why is it that some commentators suggest that the Azaria trial and the show of unity around his cause by Israeli society is an indication of some massive change underway in Israel?

Yoav Litvin, for example, argues in ‘TeleSur’ that the "precedent set by this case will further solidify the complete dehumanization of Palestinians and pave the way for further ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

In an article, entitled: "Like Brexit and Trump, Azaria verdict exposes a moment of transition in Israel", Jonathan Cook also eluded to a similar idea. “The soldier’s trial, far from proof of the rule of law, was the last gasp of a dying order,” he wrote.

Neither Litvin nor Cook are suggesting that the supposed change in Israel is substantive but an important change, nonetheless.

But if the past and the present are one and the same, where is the 'transition', then?

The creation of Israel atop the ruins of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing that made Israel’s ‘independence’ possible, the subsequent wars, occupation and sieges are all devoid of any morality.

Indeed, Israel was established with the idea in mind that a "Jewish state" is possible without the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian Arabs.

In a letter to his son in 1937, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister after the country’s establishment in 1948, wrote: "We must expel the Arabs and take their places and if we have to use force, to guarantee our own right to settle in those places ­ then we have force at our disposal."

In the year that Israel was established, the United Nations defined genocide in Article 2 of the ‘Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’, as follows:

"Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.."

In other words, there is nothing new here since the ‘mainstreaming of genocide’ in Israel took place before and during the founding of the country, and ever since.

Fortunately, some Israeli leaders were quite candid about the crimes of that era.

"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist," former Israeli leaders, Moshe Dayan said while addressing the Technion as reported in ‘Haaretz’ on April 4, 1969. “There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

But throughout these years, Israel has managed to sustain a balancing act, generating two alternate realities: a material one, in which violence is meted out against Palestinians on a regular basis, and a perceptual one, that of a media image through which Israel is presented to the world as a 'villa in the jungle', governed by democratic laws, which makes it superior to its neighbors in every possible way.

Former Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, demonstrate the latter point best. "There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies," he was quoted in the ‘Jerusalem Post’ on May 10. 2001. “They are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy."

In fact, Israeli commentators on the Left often reminisce about the 'good old days', before extremists ruled Israel and rightwing parties reigned supreme.

A particular memory that is often invoked was the mass protest in Tel Aviv to the Israeli-engineered Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees in South Lebanon in 1982.

Protesters demanded the resignations of then-Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, and his Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon. Both men were accused of allowing the massacres of Palestinians by Christian Phalange to take place. An Israeli commission of investigation found Israel guilty of 'indirect responsibility', further contributing to the myth that Israel's guilt lies in the fact that it allowed Christians to kill Muslims, as Sharon complained in his biography, years later.

At the time, it did not occur to Israeli protesters as odd the fact that Begin, himself, was the wanted leader of a terrorist gang before Israel's founding and that Sharon was accused of orchestrated many other massacres.

Many in Israeli and western media spoke highly of the moral uprightness of Israeli society. Palestinians were baffled by Israel's ability to carry out war crimes and to emerge in a positive light, regardless.

"Goyim kill Goyim and the Jews are blamed," Begin had then complained with a subtle reference to what he perceived as a form of anti-Semitism. Aside from Sabra and Shatila, tens of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians were killed in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Historical fact shows that Israel is not experiencing a real transition, but what is truly faltering is Israel’s balancing act: its ability to perpetrate individual and collective acts of violence and still paint an image of itself as law-abiding and democratic.

Zionist leaders of the past had played the game too well and for far too long, but things are finally being exposed for what they really are, thanks to the fact that Jewish settlers now rule the country, control the army, have growing influence over the media and, therefore, define the Israeli course and PR image.

“This new army (of settlers) is no longer even minimally restrained by concerns about the army’s ‘moral’ image or threats of international war crimes investigations,” wrote Cook.

And with that new-found ‘freedom’, the world is able to see Israel as it is. The balancing act is finally over.

- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Douglas Gook, John Helmer, Janine Bandcroft January 18, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


January 18, 2017

Life has been anything but routine for the BC interior residents of Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake, and Quesnel Lake. On August 4th, 2014 the Imperial Metals mine tailings dam burst, sending an estimated 25 million cubic metres of extractive process contaminated sludge and heavy metals-laden toxins into the local watershed.

In what was deemed at the time the biggest spill of its kind into the environment of all time, the chemical impacts of the Mt. Polley Mine spill disaster made Imperial Metals, according to the National Pollutant Release Inventory, "the largest emitter of copper, arsenic and manganese in Canadian waters in 2014."

But, nearly two and half years after the fact, the governments charged with crafting and enforcing laws to protect the people and places of this Canada are yet to lay charges in enforcement of those laws regarding Imperial Metals.

Listen. Hear.

It's fallen instead to MiningWatch Canada, the "[P]an-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Indigenous and labour organisations from across the country" to launch a private prosecution. This past week, the federal government tried to torpedo that launch before it left the dock, moving to stay the case and prevent MiningWatch entering evidence.

Douglas Gook is a Quesnel-based ecology activist who's focused on Eco forestry alternatives in the woods there and beyond for more than forty years. He leads Forest Protection Allies, one of the many environmental organizations pressuring government to get effective cleanup processes going, and appropriate compensation for those effected by the Mt. Polley Mine disaster put in place. He attended the gallery in the MiningWatch case Friday, and was there when the federal government's stunning motion to the court was read.

Douglas Gook in the first half.

And; with mere days left before the inauguration of Donald Trump as America's 45th president, governments around the World are frantically arranging and rearranging ministries and departments in preparation of a new era in their US relations. Canada is no exception, but where most other countries are moving to align themselves more harmoniously with perceived Trump values, Ottawa appears to be taking the novel approach of charting a 180 degree course in the opposite direction. At least, this is how the elevation of the famously Russophobic Chrystia Freeland is being interpreted in some quarters.

John Helmer is a long-time, Moscow-based journalist, author, and essayist; the only one, his site, Dances with Bears informs “to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties.” He’s a former political science professor who's served as an advisor to the governments of Greece, the U.S., and in Asia where he regularly lectures on Russian topics. His book titles include: ‘Uncovering Russia,’ ‘Urbanman: The Psychology of Urban Survival,’ ‘Bringing the War Home: The American Soldier in Vietnam and After,’ and ‘Drugs and Minority Oppression’ among others.

John's latest article, 'Chrystia Freeland is the Body Double - Canada Plays Hillary Clinton Card at Russia; Kremlin Suspects Putsch Against Justin Trudeau' examines the meteoric rise to power of Canada's newest Minister of Foreign Affairs.

John Helmer and Anatomy of a Canadian Coup in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of some of the good things scheduled for the coming week on and beyond the streets of our city. But first, Douglas Gook and the federal government's attempt to stay the toxic flow of information on the Mt. Polley mining spill disaster.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

Monday, January 16, 2017

Trumping NAFTA? US Trade with Canada after Donald

US border tax aimed squarely at Canada

by Peter Ewart - 250 News


January 16, 2017

There has been much furor and controversy over the last while about president-elect Donald Trump’s threat to penalize any US company that attempts to move operations to another country. Now we have learned on Friday, January 13th that Trump’s threat also applies to auto companies moving some or all of their operations to Canada. This will be part of a “border adjustment tax” applied to auto products imported into the US.

Sean Spicer, spokesman for Donald Trump, stated that,

“’When a company that’s in the U.S. moves to a place, whether it’s Canada or Mexico, and any other country seeking to put U.S. workers at a disadvantage’, then the incoming U.S. president ‘is going to do everything he can to deter that’.” (1)

Presumably, this penalty will apply to other Canadian industries not just auto. What would be the result of this new policy? After all, many Canadian companies in different industrial sectors have operations in the US, and many US companies have operations in Canada. And some companies are “North American” in their scope. Aside from all the chaos this penalty will cause, the outcome would be a strong tendency for industrial and manufacturing operations in Canada to drastically decline over time and those in the US to increase (at Canada’s expense).

Indeed, the same threat has been applied to Mexico and is already having an effect. For example, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has frankly stated that the company may end all operations in Mexico if the Trump tariffs are too high and, instead, keep production in the US. Canada now faces exactly the same threat.

This, of course, fits in with former US senator Rick Santorum’s recent comment that,

“We (the US) are going to be aggressively going after jobs that are high tech and other types of manufacturing jobs and a lot of those are up in Canada.” (2)

It was always a deception that so-called “free trade” actually existed between Canada and the US, as evidenced by the longstanding Softwood Lumber dispute. In fact, like the other side of a coin, protectionism was always there. The difference now is that Trump is dramatically ramping up the protectionist side.

All of this calls into question Canada’s trading relationship with the US, including the original Free Trade Agreement as well as NAFTA. It also exposes the “North American project” of continentalism, i.e. putting Canada under US economic, political and military domination, as a trap and a disaster for Canada.

The Trump administration is threatening both Canada and Mexico with the tearing up of NAFTA unless it gets its way. It’s time for Canada to call Trump’s bluff. We need to move towards a more self-reliant economy and seek trade arrangements based on mutual benefit. That means we need our own nation-building project, one that is not hopelessly entangled with an increasingly erratic and aggressive US.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca

Notes

1) Olorunnipa, Toluse. “Trump team signals auto border tax could also hit Canada.” January 13, 2017.
2) Ewart, Peter. “Will the Trump administration view Canada as its 21st Century colony?” 250 News. November 21, 2016.

Arming Up on the Way Out: Obama's Grenade Over the Shoulder for Syria

Obama and Congress Just Made it Easier For Trump to Arm Syrian Rebels

by TRNN


January 16, 2017

Anti-aircraft weapons sent to vetted moderate rebels could end up in the hands of extremist groups as many work in coalition together, says journalist Ben Norton.


Ocean Desertification: A Bad Year for Sea Life

Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life

by Robert Hunziker  - CounterPunch


January 16, 2017

The waters of the Pacific off the California coast are transparently clear. Problem is: Clear water is a sign that the ocean is turning into desert, (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA). From Alaska to Central America, and beyond, sea life has been devastated over the past three years like never before. Is it Fukushima, or nature running its own course, or some kind of perverse wrath emanating from global warming? For a hint, scientists refer to the lethal ocean warming over the past few years as “the Warm Blob.”
Photo NASA/Kathryn Hansen | CC BY 2.0 


After all, global warming hits the ocean much, much harder than land. Up to 90% of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming is absorbed by the ocean, which is fortuitous for humans. Just imagine the chaos if the situation were reversed: Mobs of regular ole people morphing into maddened gangs striving for food, huddled in far northern latitudes while Mid America scorches brittle crops in sandy soil, a dystopian lifestyle.

“Upper ocean heat content has increased significantly over the past two decades” (Source: Climate Change: Ocean Heat Content, NOAA, Climate.gov, July 14, 2015). More than 3,000 Argo floats strategically positioned worldwide measure ocean temps every 10 days.

Scientists classify the Warm Blob phenomenon as “multi-year ocean heat waves,” with temperatures 7° F above normal and up to 10°F above normal in extreme cases. How would humans handle temperatures, on average, 7° to 10°F above normal? There’d be mass migrations from Florida to Alaska, for sure. As it happens, sea animals do not do well. They die in unbelievably massive numbers; all across the ocean… the animal die-offs are unprecedented. Scientists are stunned!

After years of horrendous worldwide sea animal die-offs, 2016 was a banner year. Is this out of the ordinary? Sadly, the answer is: Yes.

The numbers are simply staggering, not just in the Pacific, but around the world, e.g., the following is but a partial list during only one month (December 2016): Tens of thousands of dead starfish beached in Netherlands; 6,000 dead fish in Maryland waterway; 10 tons of dead fish in Brazilian river; tens of thousands of dead fish wash up on Cornwall, England beach; schools of dead herring in Nova Scotia; 100 tons of fish suddenly dead in Indonesia; massive fish deaths ‘state of calamity’ in Philippines; thousands of dead crayfish float down river in New Zealand; masses of dead starfish, crabs, and fish wash ashore in Nova Scotia, and there are more and more….

In fact, entire articles are written about specific areas of massive die offs, for example: “Why Are Chilean Beaches Covered With Dead Animals?” Smithsonian.com, May 4, 2016. Chilean health officials had to resort to heavy machinery to remove 10,000 dead rotting squid from coastlines earlier in the 2016 year. Over 300 whale carcasses hit the beaches and 8,000 tons of sardines and 12% of the annual salmon catch… all found dead on beaches, to name only a few! You’ve gotta wonder why?

According to Nate Mantua, research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, California:

“One of the things that is clear is there’s a lot of variation from year to year along the Pacific Coast, and some of that is tied into natural patterns, like El Niño,’ Mantua said. ‘But what we saw in 2014, ‘15 and the first part of ‘16 was warmer than anything we’ve seen in our historical records, going back about 100 years” (Mary Callahan, Year in Review: Ocean Changes Upend North Coast Fisheries, The Press Democrat, Dec. 25, 2016).

Fishermen bitterly claim the ocean is changing like never before. Meanwhile, scientists study those weird changes but do not fully understand the problem. Unfortunately, the general public does not see changes hidden within water; otherwise, they, the general public, might organize and demand their politicians in Washington, D.C. fight climate change/global warming. According to John Largier, professor of coastal oceanography at UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, “Climate change syndrome is definitely having an impact,” Ibid.

As it happens, the world climate system is interconnected, interwoven such that climatic stress originated at sea spills onto land, e.g., the Warm Blob was first observed and linked to a high-pressure ridge stationed over the north Pacific in 2011. This ridge diverted winter storms, thereby exacerbating California’s drought meanwhile weakening winds that ordinarily absorb ocean heat and stir up the cold water necessary for immensely productive Northern Coast breeding grounds for marine wildlife.

Morosely, too-warm ocean water serves as breeding ground for the infamous deadly “red tide,” a bloom of single-celled organism that thrives in warmer waters, producing a neurotoxin called domoic acid, resulting in enormous numbers of sea lion fatalities and massive destruction of Dungeness crab fisheries and all kinds of other trouble.

Too-warm water also contributes to the collapse of bull kelp forests, which are the ocean’s equivalent of the tropical rain forest; meanwhile, purple urchins thrive and multiply in explosive fashion in the poisonous environment, devouring remaining plant life. Thereby, out-competing hapless red abalone, the shellfish that people love.

Collapsing food chains are evident up and down the Pacific Coast earmarked by large die offs of Cassin Auklets, a tiny seabird, as well as massive numbers of Common Murres. The sea lions and fur seals suffer from starvation and domoic acid poisoning. In early 2013 scientists declared the sea lion die-off an “unusual mortality event.”

Nursing sea lion mothers are unable to find enough forage like sardines and anchovies. Pups, searching for food, strand on beaches filled with curious sunbathers with a natural proclivity to cuddle the hapless cuties that could easily result in fierce attacks. As it happens, lifeguards run along sandy beaches warning beachcombers beware!

Still, wildlife die-offs are an ancient phenomenon, mentioned by Aristotle in his Historia Animalium (4th Century B.C.). In the U.S. in 1884, hundreds of tons of dead fish bellied up in lakes around Madison, Wisconsin. This knowledge of the past gives one pause when considering whether an all-out alarm is warranted this time around. After all, isn’t it nature’s way?

No, this time it is different, much different. The all-out alarm is warranted with bells clanging! Yes, of course part of nature’s cycle over the eons involves wildlife die-offs. That’s nature, but nowadays nature is out-of-whack! Ring the bells; blast the sirens!

As published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Recent Shifts in the Occurrence, Cause, and Magnitude of Animal Mass Events, Vol. 112, no. 4, Aug. 5, 2014) it was found that worldwide animal die-offs are increasing in both number and magnitude, even after statistically correcting for the fact that mass deaths are now more likely to be documented than in the past.

“Every biologist I spoke with who is researching mass-mortality events said that many wildlife die-offs today really could be signals of serious problems with the ecological fundamentals of the planet” (Source: J.B. MacKinnon, On Animal Deaths and Human Anxieties, The New Yorker, April 21, 2015). That is the worst possible news you can ever hear.

As for only one example amongst many, the typical number of bird deaths per reported die-off was about 100 in the 1940s. Today it is 10,000 and reported much more frequently than 75 years ago.

Bottom line, the ecosystem is under fierce attack, and it is real, very real indeed with too much global warming, too much ag runoff, too much heavy-duty massive overfishing, likely too much nuclear radiation, and deadly acidification caused by excessive CO2 concentrations (already damaging pteropods at the base of the marine food chain) as the ocean absorbs anthropogenic CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, similar to the upper atmospheric conundrum where 400+ ppm of CO2 (anything over 350 ppm leads to serious planetary trouble over time) is already heating up the planet as the ocean absorbs 90% of that heat. Thank your lucky stars for that… but only transitorily!

As stated by the Environmental Defense Fund: “Oceans are at the Brink”- For decades, the ocean has been absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) dumped into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. It has absorbed a lot of the extra heat produced by elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. But even the ocean has limits!

Going forward, how will the Trump administration confront this messy, possibly fatal and very complex situation, since fossil fuels are the main driver behind climate change/global warming?

Will the Trump administration initiate a nationwide renewable energy plan, similar to Communist China? Accordingly: (Michael Forsythe, China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020, New York Times, January 5, 2017)
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com

More articles by:Robert Hunziker