Thursday, July 02, 2015

Say Anything: Can Canada Believe Trudeau's Promise?

Meet Canada’s Latest Liberal Man-Boy

by Murray Dobbin - CounterPunch

Here we go again — the Red Book 3.0. Yet another build-up of Liberal election promises just like the ones we’ve seen before (though I admit the one about changing the voting system might be hard to dodge).

The most infamous, of course, was Jean Chretien’s, which he held high and waved at every opportunity in the 1993 election. Co-authored by Paul Martin, it promised the world as we would like it: strong communities, enhanced Medicare, equality, increased funding for education, an end to child poverty. You could almost hear the violins playing. But what turned out to be the most remarkable thing about the book of promises was the record number that were ultimately broken: all of them.

The only time you can trust the federal Liberal Party is when they don’t have a majority — and even with a minority government they have to dragged kicking and screaming to do anything that does not please Bay Street. This fact needs to be repeated over and over again in the next few months leading up to the election as political amnesia is a dangerous condition to take with you into the voting booth.

It’s been 10 years since we had a Liberal government and even longer since we had a majority Liberal regime. A trip down memory lane might serve as a curative.

The effect of amnesia as it relates to the Chretien regime (actually the Martin regime) leaves most Canadians recalling Martin as the deficit dragon-slayer, saving us from our profligate, self-indulgent, entitlement culture and getting us back on the road to solvency. A few will actually recall that Martin chopped 40 per cent off the federal contribution to social programs — but even that memory is diluted by another one: the legendary “debt wall” built exclusively of hyperbole and hysteria over the three years preceding the 1993 election.

But few today would credit the fact, documented in my book Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?, that the 1990s under Martin’s guidance was the worst decade of the century (except for the 1930s) in terms of growth, productivity, productive investment, employment and standard of living.

Unemployment was higher during almost all of Martin’s reign than it was as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.

But what is worse, this so-called liberal actually made it happen. It was a deliberate strategy, fancied up in policy terms as a commitment to “labour flexibility.” The social and economic carnage and the increased personal misery (an additional 300,000 unemployed) was staggering.

Yet because it was all couched in double-speak, Martin and the Liberals were never held to account. The finance ministry’s senior officials convinced Martin that the principal cause of unemployment was not low demand but unmotivated workers. The solution — make them more “flexible.” The best way to do that was to ensure that unemployment remained high. The finance department’s operating policy assumption (radical compared to the U.S. and other G7 nations) was that the “natural” level of unemployment was eight per cent — much higher than the five to six per cent that conventional theory suggested. But the spin never mentioned this number. It was always about keeping inflation below two per cent, extremely low given the country was barely out of a recession. The Bank of Canada worked closely with the government, increasing interest rates whenever unemployment went below about nine per cent.

The cost to the economy was brutal. The federal Human Resources Development Department calculated that Martin’s excessive unemployment cost the country’s GDP $77 billion just in 1993. Pierre Fortin, a distinguished economist at the Université du Québec à Montréal, calculated the radical policy cost the economy $400 billion between by 1996. A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) study calculated the total loss to all levels of government in foregone revenue and increased social security costs at $47 billion.

Martin pounded labour in other ways. He slashed UI eligibility and eliminated the federal government’s role in maintaining decent social assistance rates.

At the same time, he was making the largest cuts to federal spending in the country’s history — including a massive 40 per cent cut to Medicare, education and social assistance.

Throughout this period the Liberal a government and its cheerleaders in the media framed the exercise as “deficit fighting.” But according to then CAW economist Jim Stanford, had Martin simply frozen federal spending and allowed unemployment to drop to six per cent, the deficit would have disappeared just one year later than it did. Martin knew all of this but two years after launching his “labour flexibility” program he proudly revealed his actual goal in his 1995 budget speech to Parliament, announcing the massive cuts. He never mentioned the word deficit — because that was not his target.

All those cuts by Martin were intended, in his words, to “redesign the very role and structure of government itself. [A]s far as we are concerned, it is [the] redefinition of government itself that is the main achievement of this budget. This budget overhauls not only how government works but what government does.”

Martin’s biggest boast? “Relative to the size of our economy, program spending will be lower in 1996-97 than at any time since 1951.”

To guarantee his handiwork would not be challenged by any future government, Martin, in 2000, introduced the country’s largest ever tax cuts: $100 billion over five years with the vast majority of the total going to high income individuals and corporations.

Why is Paul Martin’s appalling record relevant today? Because Liberal and Conservative politicians with rare exceptions (like Stephen Harper) are largely at the mercy of their bureaucracies and the agenda of the economic elite at the moment. In Martin’s case he was easily manipulated by his deputy minister David Dodge, in spite of the fact that Martin had a reputation for being supportive of activist government. His first, 1993, budget actually increased spending.

One of the Liberals’ main election planks in the 1993 election was job creation. Supporting this goal was Martin’s junior finance minister Doug Peters — an exceptional economist with excellent standing on Bay Street having worked for the TD bank as its senior economist for many years before jumping into politics. But in the end Martin, a long-time corporate CEO, could not have made any other choice. Dodge just made it easy for him. Martin was a Liberal finance minister at a time of unprecedented corporate power and its merger with the state. His role was assigned to him before he even got there. (Dodge actually lobbied Chretien to appoint him.)

Liberal politicians, with few exceptions, are captive to their neoliberal advisors, bureaucratic apparatchiks and senior corporate power brokers as soon as they actually get into power. This political capture is a likely prediction for Justin Trudeau if he ever becomes prime minister. Martin was not a blank slate — he was sophisticated, self-confident, with strong personality and a well developed liberal vision. He lasted a year.

Justin Trudeau, the man/boy, seems to have never had an original idea in his life nor any discernible vision of the country that drives his politics. No matter how long he is on the scene as a potential PM I cannot get past reacting to him as if he is an MC at a high school prom.

He is all artifice. More than any Liberal party leader in the past 35 years Trudeau is an empty vessel with little choice but to be filled up by his party’s corporate brain trust.

Bay Street desperately wants back into the game and the Liberals are their only option. While they have been given lots of goodies by Harper, they have been cut off from their historic role as the principal source of federal policy making. (Harper doesn’t care what they think.) In addition, the federal bureaucracy has been made to reflect the ideology of pro-business “efficiency” to such an extent over the past 20 years a genuine small-l liberal would have to replace most of it to get any advice contrary to the status-quo.

Justin doesn’t have a chance. The promises he makes will not be his to keep.


MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years. He now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and rabble.ca. He can be reached at murraydobbin@shaw.ca

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Getting 'To The Ends of the Earth' Made

To the Ends of the Earth

by WhiteGoldProductionsInc.

To the Ends of the Earth follows a group of concerned citizens and experts as they bear witness to humanity’s descent further down the “resource pyramid.”

At the top of the pyramid, energy is easy to find and cheap, and it requires minimal labour and has the highest capital and energy return on investment, as in the case of Saudi oil. In the middle of the pyramid, resources are more difficult and costly to extract, as in the case of the Alberta tar sands and shale gas:



“Drill, baby, drill” has become “mine, baby, mine,” “steam, baby, steam,” and “frack, baby, frack.”



At the bottom of the pyramid there are resources such as Utah’s oil shale, the economic feasibility of which, despite billions in investments, remains uncertain. After ten years of rather intensive global development, “unconventional resources” now comprise 42% of the planet’s energy mix.

We meet some fascinating people along the way. A petroleum geologist trying to hold his industry accountable for its practices, a university professor who risks losing her home to fight a pipeline, a woman who has already lost her home to a flood, an environmental lawyer who has switched from defending the fracking industry to fighting against it, a seal hunter worried about gargantuan oil spills in his home- one of the most pristine places on earth. All of these people give us a window into the new energy age we have stumbled unwittingly into.

Given that 95% of all economic transactions in our globalized economy bear the footprint of fossil fuels, does this spell the end of economic growth for our civilization?

To the Ends of the Earth brings forward the voices of those who not only denounce the rise of extreme energy, but also envision the new world that is taking shape in its stead: a future beyond the resource pyramid, a post-growth economy.

Baskin's Modest Palestine Peace Proposal

Baskin’s Generous Offer: Making Peace with Israeli Occupation

by Ramzy Baroud - PalestineChronicle.com

It would be fair to assume that Gershon Baskin’s recent article in the Jerusalem Post - Encountering Peace: Obviously no peace now, so what then? (June 24) – is not a mere intellectual exercise aimed at finding ‘creative’ solutions to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Baskin is a regular contributor to the Jerusalem Post, a rightwing newspaper. He is more or less embodied in the Israeli political establishment, otherwise, he would have never been allowed to initiate the “secret back channel for the release (of captured Israeli soldier) Gilad Schalit” as he proudly states in his bio.

In the article, Baskin offers a way to manage the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. Not an end to the occupation, but a gentler way to sustain it, if not profit from it. The co-chairman of ‘Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives’ is indeed being ‘creative’, the kind of creativity that brought about the Village Leagues, Oslo and the Geneva Initiative without truly delving into the heart of the matter – the illegality and brutality of Israel’s occupation, sieges and wars.

Baskin’s reading of the situation is quite bleak. He carefully tries not to place any responsibility on any side for the lack of any political horizon, as a way to gain credibility. “Neither side seems to be particularly interested in escalation and violence,” he wrote, reaching a puzzling conclusion that seems at odd with reality, at least Palestinian reality: “Noteworthy is the sense that the young people on both sides have of being more interested in their daily lives than in national causes.”

One is not entirely certain how the daily lives of ‘Israeli youth’, who serve in the very military that is dedicated to subduing ‘Palestinian youth’ are in anyway comparable.

But that aside, Baskin has a solution, one that requires a degree of flexibility on the part of the Israeli government, to show more leniency in the way it manages its occupation of the Palestinians. Baskin calls on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take the initiative of making border areas places of trade and economic exchanges, and to make the permit system required of Palestinian to move about in their own occupied land more efficient.

Just in case, one would conflate Baskin’s imitative with Netanyahu’s gambit in 2008-09 of ‘economic peace’ – aimed largely at maintaining the profitable occupation, subduing the Palestinians and avoiding any political accountability – Baskin calls on Netanyahu to “be careful not to use concepts like ‘economic peace’ which are immediately interpreted as a means to replace ‘political peace,’ meaning the end of the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state.”

“There should be no spin and no lies. There is no chance of negotiating peace now, so let’s see what can be done to improve the lives of people until there is a chance of making peace,” he wrote, more or less the same guiding principles behind Netanyahu’s ‘economic peace.’

Interestingly, the word settlements (as in ‘illegal settlements’ as designated by international law) is not mentioned by Baskin. Not once. And knowing of Netanyahu’s adamant position on the continued expansion of the illegal settlements, Baskin’s omission of the topic altogether must also mean that his proposal is not pre-conditioned on ending or at least freezing the theft of Palestinian land for settlement construction.

Another omission is that of any references to international law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention in particular. By treating Palestinians with respect (the ‘inefficiency’ at the Qalanidya checkpoint was Baskin’s main example) is not a favor that is to be bestowed by Netanyahu and his army, but has been long articulated in the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

Article 50, for example, reads, “The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.”

By ceasing to target Palestinian children, whether through arrests or violence, Israel would hardly be extending a hand for peace or co-existence. In other words, what Baskin is asking for by way to manage the Israeli occupation, is a requirement by international law that should have been put in place decades ago, as a prerequisite to ending the occupation.

Also not mentioned in Baskin’s ‘so what then?’ initiative is Gaza, whose children have been starved and killed with impunity throughout 9 years of a protracted and heinous siege that is only interrupted by deadly and more heinous Israeli wars. The latest UN report on Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014 leaves no doubt that Netanyahu, and his governments hadn’t the slightest intentions of honoring international law, respecting UN conventions on children or civilians during time of war, or reaching any political settlements, not now or ever.

But why did Baskin neglect Gaza altogether? It cannot be that the man who wrote and profited from a book about his Gaza-related adventures called, “The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas”, failed to understand the centrality of the Gaza siege to the overall Palestinian national discourse.

So what is really behind Baskin’s supposed bold proposal?


Baskin is very close to those in power. His initiatives are rarely his own, and the latest is a mere reflection of the political bankruptcy of Netanyahu’s government.

Baskin is, of course wrong. Palestinians have shown much willingness to end the conflict in a method that hinges on Israel’s respect for international law, including the ending of the construction of illegal settlements.

Now that Netanyahu’s government is stacked with more rightwing zealots - individuals who made careers and gained famed and notoriety, because of their insistence on the maintaining of the occupation, and feeding off, politically and financially, the illegal settlements - a return to the ‘negotiation table’ is unattainable.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, is finding itself in an impossible situation; whereas, on one hand it is reaping the ample benefits of being the caretaker government of an imagined ‘authority’, itself under Israeli occupation, and on the other, it is having to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state, a matter that is most upsetting for Israel.

Moreover, the United States, which seems to have given up on persuading Netanyahu to reengage in the ‘peace process’, has now moved on to more pressing matters in the region, which balances are more fractious than ever before.

The US is also mellowing down, at least for now, with its obsession with the perceived Iranian nuclear threat. If an agreement is reached between Iran and the US and its allies, then Israel would have no other option but to find another enemy to justify its military belligerence and heightened sense of political urgency.

Indeed, that new enemy is being quickly manufactured, as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and powerful US-based Zionists such as Sheldon Adelson seem to all agree that the non-violent civil society-empowered movement: BDS, aimed at boycotting, divestment and sanctioning Israel, is Israel’s greatest threat.

While Israel gears up for its new ‘existential’ battle against civil society organizations, it’s keen on normalizing the occupation of Palestine. This is why the ‘economic peace’ formula keeps resurfacing every now and then, the latest being Baskin’s elucidation.

But peace is not war, and Baskin should know that not a single past formula aimed at fashioning a ‘peaceful’ military occupation has ever worked. He also ought to remember that the so-called golden age of the Israeli occupation was precisely that few years that preceded the First Palestinian Uprising in 1987. It was then that all hell broke loose.

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 latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net.

Old Growth Logging in Clayoquot "Destroying Shark Creek"


Old Growth Logging Near Sulphur Pass in Clayoquot Sound

by Tribal Fire

These pictures were taken three days ago. The large old growth trees are being stockpiled and the land is drying out from the intense drought and winds taking place here on the coast. Shark Creek watershed is being destroyed. The logging is being contracted out to a company from Prince Rupert with only one permanent First Nations person working for Iisaak, Spencer Touchie from Ucluelet.

We do not support the plans for the ongoing commercial logging of old growth forests from Clayoquot Sound by Iisaak.

The following are some of the reasons for this:


1. Whole logs are being exported from Clayoquot Sound without processing here into lumber, nor are they being sold in this area for local purposes.
2. Old growth forests are endangered and very little remains of this unique ecosystem anywhere in the world at present.
3. Climate change is being exacerbated by the ongoing massive destruction of forests which sequester Carbon Dioxide. This is a most serious situation globally and we are experiencing the effects of this from drought and extreme weather in this area as well.
4. Old growth forests maintain watershed protection and hold moisture to ensure waterways are always flowing. Humans are not the only ones who require flowing rivers and streams.
5. These forests provide unique biodiversity that has hardly been studied enough to know what it maintains and ensures for the future. Many species depend upon it's integrity for nesting, forage, protection and survival.

6. Erosion due to logging in coastal areas where harsh weather conditions and heavy rains and winds from the ocean are a given. Landslides and siltation, blowdown and loss of soil cover are found especially in areas where these ancient forests have been disturbed.

7. These forests are a once only wonder of the world and once gone, they will never be again, have we lost our appreciation of a sense of wonder, especially for our children and grandchildren?

8. Species such as wild salmon, bears, cougar, marbled murrelets, eagles, herons, osprey, giant salamanders,
elk, deer, and many species of insects, mosses, lichens, ferns and a myriad of other plant, animal and bird life need these forests for survival. 

Iran Nuclear Deadline Passes

As Iran Nuclear Deadline Passes, Narrative Battle Heats Up

by Sharmine Narwani - RT

It’s D-Day in Vienna, and the parties sitting across the negotiating table still haven’t ironed out terms to settle a 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Expect this deadline to be missed. And prepare for a lot of hot air to fill its space.

The “hot air” is calculated narrative-spin from a range of players that seek to 1) scuttle a deal, 2) increase pressure/create leverage at the negotiating table, or 3) frame an upcoming agreement in language favorable to one side.

And the Western media serves as a willing handmaiden in this petty game. Journalists thought nothing of casting a global question mark over Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s pre-arranged one-day detour to Tehran – even though his six P5+1 counterparts were also off “seeing to business.”

READ MORE: Iran, P5+1 extend interim nuclear deal until July 7 to win more time for talks

Western pundits weighed in en masse after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s June 23 speech, accusing him of rejecting key provisions of the Lausanne framework agreement and walking back from earlier promises.

“It’s not true at all,” says one senior foreign ministry official, appearing perplexed – if not skeptical – at these charges. “Iran is under severe pressure from Western media,” he insists, adding: “It’s not a fair trend. No one seems to care about what Iran is doing, what’s on the table. We just want a fair reflection of what is going on at these negotiations.”

If anything, the Iranians charge that the US team “seems to have experienced buyer’s remorse after Lausanne,” and backtracked on, or revisited, some already ‘resolved’ issues.

According to various sources, at this late date, US negotiators are opening up discussion points that Iran thought they’d already dealt with. These include access to Iranian military sites (which Iran has already rejected), some technical issues around the Fordo nuclear facility, research and development parameters, and the critical issue around the timeline established for staged sanctions relief.

Clearly, for the Iranians, one of the main objectives of these negotiations is the removal of all international sanctions related to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear file.

An official explains: “The sanctions-lifting is not a day’s job – we don’t expect this. The US needs to do some preparatory work to change the culture of sanctions. They have to inform the companies and financial institutions and remove the political and cultural bias/fear of doing business with Iran – the Americans refer to this as the ‘psychological effect of sanctions’ – and this needs at least six months of hard, hard work, including a lot of legal work.”

But the Iranians want the US to work in parallel and simultaneously on sanctions-removal alongside Iran as it undertakes its physical task of disassembling agreed-upon aspects of its nuclear program. Based on technical calculations from official sources, it will take Iran a maximum of three months to implement these steps.

The most significant setback at this stage of negotiations is in fact the insertion of the US Senate into the process. Post-Lausanne, the Senate passed a bill that demanded oversight over the Iran nuclear deal and so Congress gets approximately 52 days to fiddle with whatever gets approved in Vienna.



“It’s a massive setback,” says an Iranian official. “Even if there is an agreement on June 30, we have nothing until the Senate approves it. If Iran had passed a similar bill, do you think the media would be so silent about this development?”

“If we want to be fair, the sanctions removal process should start together, in parallel with Iran’s work, to establish trust. It’s doable within three months. Otherwise – what? We destroy the heart of the Arak (hard water) reactor and then the US changes its mind?” This is a sentiment heard from many Iranians interviewed.

What do the Americans say about this, I ask? “The US is saying we’re still thinking about this.”

The same lack of definition surrounds the much-hyped issue of access to Iran’s military facilities. In the past few months, Western media has highlighted this storyline ad nauseum – to the annoyance of the Iranians at the negotiating table today.

“We never accepted this military site access. Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent speech never established this as a ‘new’ red line – it was one of our biggest problems with the US fact sheet after Lausanne. The Americans created a problem for themselves by saying this repeatedly.”

Iran has agreed in principle on IAEA access based on the ‘Additional Protocol’ which leaves it up to the individual member-state to decide on whether to provide access to requested sites.

The protocol specifically states that “it is permissible not to allow” access – and that inspectors can only use this access for “local environmental sampling,” which the Iranians know full well can be done from outside a facility’s perimeters.

“Even the US demands ‘managed access’ of the IAEA when it does its US inspections,” says a source familiar with the nuclear organization’s procedures.

Says an Iranian close to negotiators: “This issue of ‘access’ is really more an issue that speaks to the integrity of the American position at the negotiating table.”

The thing about Vienna on D-Day is that it is packed to the rafters with journalists of every stripe, straining for the tiniest tidbit of information to get a reading on what is happening at that table.

They congregate until well past midnight in the hotel lobby where most of them stay…or inside the large white tent erected outside the Palais Coburg – site of the talks – next door.

Information is the currency of the media, and when the stakes are this high and on-the-record news is so scarce, every bit of information becomes “newsworthy” – never mind that much of it is purposefully flogged by various parties for gain inside the deal-making room.

It is driving the Iranians nuts. “At this stage we still have joint common interests otherwise we couldn’t sit at the table,” says one. “But the sense outside the negotiating room is that there is a crisis.”

And the media fuels it.

Just last night, for instance, an Iranian official shot down an Agence France Press (AFP) report on the Islamic Republic’s readiness to allow inspections of its military sites. He insists the article, which is based entirely on the claims of a ‘senior US official’, “deliberately distorted information to influence the negotiations.”

“We will never allow anyone to inspect military sites because they are not relevant to the IAEA inspections.” He added: “We have serious doubt about the intentions of those who are pushing for access to our defense installations.”

The Iranian government has, on two separate occasions in 2005, “voluntarily provided access” to the IAEA to inspect a single “suspected site” called Parchin. According to an official source, “we did it because we wanted to close – once and for all – the issue of the ‘potential military dimension’ (PMD), even though we know it’s a fabricated story and we knew the US knew it was fabricated.”

“These (the PMD) are not real issues. They are more a matter of the US trying to prove the credibility of past claims. It was wrong, they knew they were wrong, but they have a need to stick to the script…Kerry himself has said the PMD issue has been distorted ‘a little bit’ – to put it mildly.”

“We don’t care how much they want to be tough on the PMD,” says the source. “It is a security case that doesn’t have any end,” which is why Iran’s top leadership has drawn a firm ‘red line’ under matters that have no reasonable or logical relevance to the IAEA’s task at hand.

Iran’s few red lines are there for good reason.

Prompted by the IAEA’s suspicions, in 2008, the Islamic Republic provided information on their EBW (Exploding Bridgewire) program to the nuclear agency. One of the authors of this study was Darioush Rezaeinejad, a postgraduate electrical engineering student. “The IAEA said this has dual-use applications,” says an Iranian familiar with the case. “Darioush was one of five Iranian scientists assassinated later, in front of his family – the knowledge that he had got him killed.”

“We are not afraid of our past so we are ready to do any kind of activity to clarify this for the whole world,” he explains.
“But only within a process that would not lead to the death of our scientists.”

Iran today refuses to provide information or access to 18 scientists, academics and military personnel the US would like to interview. Western media cites this tidbit as though it is a sign of bad faith negotiating – like the Iranians have something to hide. But ask Iranian officials about this sticking point and you learn: “The list of 18 is specifically an American demand. It was a demand already rejected by Iran before the Lausanne framework agreement three months ago. It isn’t even on the table – the Americans haven’t brought up the issue again.”

There are times in Vienna when an agreement seems further away than ever. Everyone agrees that the seven countries at the table want this done, the US and Iran – for different reasons – at the forefront of the ‘hopefuls.’

But when you look at the nitty-gritty of what is being discussed and how far apart the sides are on simple things like ‘process’ and ‘positioning,’ it isn’t hard to wonder whether an Iran nuclear deal is even in the cards.

The press corps huddling over lattes in the lobby may be better-employed researching articles on “what if there is no Iran deal?” After all, as Iran’s Zarif said just a few days ago, “If there’s no deal, it’s not the end of the world.”

Economic Zealots Pen the New Greek Tragedy

Athens Agonistes: Troika Extremists Write New Greek Tragedy

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque


The people of Greece are being driven to their knees by a gang of brutal religious extremists, willing to destroy whole nations for the sake of something that doesn't even exist. Yet the 'civilized' world cheers these barbarians on as they despoil the cradle of Western democracy.

Greece is facing total collapse unless it knuckles under to the draconian demands of the bizarre cultists known as the Troika, a sinister union of three extremist groups (the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission) who seek to impose their harsh and rigid way of life across the world. They insist that control of a nation's wealth be given over to a few powerful emirs and the Troika's favored moneylenders in its richer satrapies.

All measures designed to aid the common good and build a decent life for ordinary citizens are ruthlessly suppressed by the Troikaists. Public resources are forcibly sold off -- at knock-down prices -- to foreign interests or local lordlings. The fact that millions of people are left destitute, living diminished lives in crumbling infrastructure, growing sicker, weaker, more hopeless, even dying from want and neglect -- none of this matters to the ruthless fanatics. All that matters is obedience to their will, and adherence to the Troika's bleak and joyless system for the regulation of life, which its learned theologians call austerity.

The supremely comfortable, self-satisfied burghers and bankers who control the Troika's factions, along with their dutiful servants in government, are watching, impassively, as the Greeks twist and turn in the poisonous shirt of Nessus that the cult has forced upon them. Already brought low by years of austerity adopted by their leaders in a vain attempt to placate the Troikaist hordes at the border, this week the Greek people face the final reckoning: complete submission, which guarantees more ruin, or a terrifying leap into the unknown, refusing the demands and suffering whatever acts of revenge the Troika will wreak upon such heretics.

It's a remarkable situation. Millions of human beings are suffering, and for what? To repay a few powerful financial institutions for the loans they gave to the Greek government -- loans which, by odd coincidence, were actually spent almost entirely on servicing previous debt to those same financial institutions. Very little of it went into the Greek economy, as the NY Times notes. It was a case of taking on new debt to pay off old debt (a situation not unknown to many of us, I'm sure), as the country slipped further into decay.

Yet it was not enough for the cultists to loan money for Greece to give right back to them; they also required that Greece restructure its society, government and economy to fit the Troika's neoliberal straitjacket. Taxes had to be raised. (For ordinary folk, of course; rich Greeks -- like the rich everywhere -- can still use complex tax-dodging schemes to stash their cash offshore.) Government spending -- especially on such useless trash as pensions, welfare, education, healthcare -- had to be ruthlessly slashed. The labor market had to become more "flexible" -- that is, stripped of job protections and workers rights, making it easier to fire people or pay them less. Deregulation and privatization were also commanded.

But why? The ostensible reason was that these austerity measures would make the Greek economy roar like a lion in his prime. But even an economist is smart enough to see that making a bankrupt country even poorer and more desperate while preventing it from injecting bailout funds into its economy is a recipe for ruination, not a blueprint for growth. And the past four years have proved that Troika’s austerity sharia has not and cannot produce “growth” in a broken economy with 25 percent unemployment. (The same percentage as in the US during the depths of the Great Depression.)

And why this time limit on the repayment? Even on the relatively small downpayment (around $1.5 billion) being demanded immediately -- a payment that the bankrupt nation simply can't pay at the moment. Why not stretch the payments out -- way, way out, if necessary? After all, Britain only paid off its post-World War II rebuilding loan from the United States in 2006 -- exactly 50 years after it was given. Why couldn't Greece be given the time to work out its economic problems -- in its own way, without mutilating its society -- and pay back its debts over the long haul?

But of course it’s not about the money. As many have already pointed out, the Troika knows that Greece is bankrupt and can’t pay back the money. (Unless, as with the UK, they are given generations to do so, on easy terms that don’t require them to bleed their people dry and gut their own society.) No, the current squeeze on Greece is about the system, the imposition of austerity sharia that is the lodestar of the Troika’s blinkered religious beliefs. If Greece will not accept the system, then it must be punished, it must be made an example. In short, it’s an act of terroristic PR, like the ISIS beheading videos: a warning that this is the fate of all those who refuse to submit.

What, in the end, is at stake? Literally nothing. Numbers on a computer screen. It’s not as if Greece has a hoard of German gold hidden in the Acropolis and won’t give it back. It’s not even as if the Greeks have warehouses full of banknotes that they can send back to the Troika. All of it — the debts, the loans — are abstract notions. The debt could be written off with the press of a delete key, or reduced by the subtraction of a zero or two on a digital spreadsheet. So could the losses of the lenders. (Although why shouldn’t the lenders lose their money? You put up your money, you take a risk, and if the venture fails, you lose. Isn’t that the ‘free market’ way? But of course there is no free market; there are only systems of exchange that powerful entities seek to control and manipulate to their advantage. There is no free market in any system where some enterprises are ‘too big to fail’ and must be bailed out by the sustenance of ordinary citizens.)

Money is a myth, sustained by the faith of those who accept whatever is the arbitrary measurement of value in any given time or society. (Beads, shells, axes, coins, ingots, strips of paper, liquid crystals dancing on a screen.) Yet throughout history, these myths have led to the deaths and despoliation of millions of innocent people. It is a myth that perpetuates inequality, servitude, suffering, and the dominion of a powerful few. The latest instalment of this ancient tragedy is being played out right now in Greece, where tragedy was born. And the extremism being displayed by the Troika is just as mindless, destructive and merciless as that of the violent Islamists that the ‘defenders of Western civilization’ have done so much to foment in their global power games.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, David Heap, Jesse Freeston, Janine Bandcroft July 1, 2015

This Week on GR

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


Another tide of international activists attempting to shore up in besieged Gaza were intercepted by Israel's navy Monday.

The converted fishing vessel, Marianne, flagged out of Gothenburg, Sweden, was boarded and its crew taken prisoner. Among those taken are two Canadians; indigenous activist Richard Lovelace, and Victorian, Kevin Neish. The pair were still in Israeli custody at the time of this writing, though their colleagues are not entirely certain of the fate of the two intrepids.

Neish was aboard the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish registered passenger liner attacked in 2010 by Israeli commandos; an attack costing the lives of nine.

David Heap is a Canadian spokesperson for the Freedom Flotilla Coalition's Canada Gaza Boat.

David Heap in the first half.

And; resistance is rife; wherever oppression and dispossession are the order of the day, people will stand up and fight back. In Honduras, June 28th marks the anniversary of a crime against the people; a crime that continues six years later. On that infamous date, a coup ousted the legitimate government of Manuel "Mel" Zelaya, taking power at the barrel of a gun, and taking Honduras back to a time most had hoped would never return. Since 2009, the generalissimos have dashed all democratic and economic reforms made to empower the poorest, while murdering all who would oppose them. But the opposition persists.

Jesse Freeston is a Canadian documentary filmmaker and videojournalist. A seminal member of the Real News Network, he's now moved into directing documentaries for teleSUR, the world's largest Spanish-language public broadcaster. His latest film is Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley, is temporarily available for free online viewing in remembrance of the day democracy died in Honduras.

Jesse Freeston and Hasta La Resistencia, Siempre! in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us from the streets of the city at a demonstration in solidarity with our comrade Kevin Neish at the bottom of the hour. But first, David Heap and the latest on the taking of the Marianne.

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. And now heard at Simon Fraser University's http://www.cjsf.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/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

David Heap:  Associate professor (French and Linguistics)  at the University of Western Ontario and  father of two, David Heap participated in the 2009-2010 Gaza Freedom March.  A Steering Cmtee member with the Canadian Boat to Gaza since the campaign began in 2010, he was on board the Tahrir when it was stopped by Greek authorities in July 2011, and again in November 2011 when captured by the Israeli navy

Deported to Canada after six days in Israeli prison, he also joined the Swedish ship to Gaza Estelle for part of its voyage in September 2012, representing the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, and he visited Gaza in October 2012 with a group of linguist colleagues (including Chomsky ).

He has spoken about previous Freedom Flotilla voyages and the Gaza Ark campaign (2012-2104) to challenge the blockade from Palestine from the inside out. He is a steering committee member of the Canadian Boat to Gaza, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. 

Hijacking Gaza Relief Efforts: Israel Again Takes Prisoners from High Seas

2 Canadians detained in Israel, 2 others return to Greece

by FFC

Two Canadians, Robert Lovelace and Kevin Neish, who were on board the Flotilla boat Marianne, headed towards Gaza, remain detained by Israel today. Israeli forces used an electric weapon against at least one crew member during their illegal seizure of the Swedish vessel. 

Ehab Lotayef, a Montreal engineer and writer, and Christian Martel, a retired trade-unionist from Québec, remain on board one of the Flotilla boats. They are still at sea, returning towards Greek waters. Lotayef says:

"We are proud of everyone who participated in Freedom Flotilla III, whatever their role. Now we are focusing on future Flotilla to continue to challenge the blockade of Gaza until it ends completely and Palestinians regain their full rights."

Contacts- Ehab Lotayef, +88 (21) 66 64 64 75 (satellite phone) or  +306948280698 (mobile)

David Heap (English, français): 519 859 3579 david.heap@gmail.com   Spokesperson for the Flotilla in Canada.

Zoe Blunt zoeblunt@gmail.com 250 813 3569 spokesperson for Kevin Neish
Richard Day richard.day@queensu.ca 613 217 5867 spokesperson for Robert Lovelace


See full statement about yesterday’s attack on the Marianne, below.


***français***


2 Canadien détenus en Israël, 2 autres retournent vers la Grèce


Deux Canadiens, Robert Lovelace et Kevin Neish, qui était à bord du bateau Marianne de la Flottille de la Liberté vers Gaza, sont encore détenus par Israël aujourd’hui. Les forces israéliennes ont utilisé un pistolet électrique contre au moins un membre de l’équipage pendant leur saisie illégale du vaisseau Suédois.


Ehab Lotayef, ingénieur et écrivain de Montréal, et Christian Martel, syndicaliste à la retraite de la région de Québec, sont toujours à bord d’un autre bateau de la Flottille. Ils se trouvent toujours en mer et se dirigent vers les eaux grècques. Lotayef dit  « Nous sommes fiers de tout le monde qui a participé à la Flottille de la Liberté III, quel que soit leur rôle. Nous nous concentrons maintenant sur une future Flottille pour continuer à défier le blocus de Gaza jusqu’à obtenir sa fin complète et le plein rétablissement des droits du peuple palestinien. »


Voir le communiqué complet au sujet de l’assaut du Marianne hier plus bas.


David Heap (English, français): david.heap@gmail.com 

porte-parole de la Flottille au Canada.


 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Israel once again commits an act of state piracy in the Mediterranean        

At 02:06AM today (Gaza time) the “Marianne” contacted Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) and informed us that three boats of the Israeli navy had surrounded her in international waters, while sailing approximately 100NM from Gaza coast. After that we lost contact with the “Marianne” and at 05:11AM (Gaza time) the IDF announced that they had “visited and searched” Marianne. They had captured the boat and detained all on board “in international waters” as they admitted themselves. The only positive content in the IDF announcement was that they still recognize that there is a naval blockade of Gaza, despite Netanyahu’s government recent denial that one exists.

We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was “uneventful”, because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, some people on board the “Estelle” were badly tasered and beaten. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters.

It is disappointing that the Israeli government chose to continue the absolutely fruitless policy of “no tolerance”, meaning it will continue to enforce an inhumane and illegal collective punishment against 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel's repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean. We demand that the Israeli government cease and desist the illegal detainment of peaceful civilians travelling in international waters in support of humanitarian aid.

We call on our government to ensure that all 18 passengers and crew from the “Marianne” are safe, including the two Canadians, Bob Lovelace and Kevin Neish. We also call on all parties to strongly protest against the violation of international maritime law by the Israeli state.

We call on all civil society organizations to condemn the actions of Israel. People all over the world will continue to respond and react to this injustice, as will we, until the port of Gaza is open and the siege and occupation is ended.


VIDEO
Ehab Lotayef speaks from the boat 'Rachel', returning towards Greece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXWF-VL1bAI&feature=youtu.be

URGENT ACTION <http://www.tahrir.ca/en/content/urgent-take-action-flotilla-gaza> APPEAL: @CanadaBoatGaza

** Le texte français suit le texte anglais **

 

Encore une fois, Israël commet un autre acte de piraterie d’État en Méditerranée


À 2h06 ce matin (heure de Gaza), le Marianne est entré en communication avec la Coalition des Flottilles de la liberté (CFL) pour nous informer que trois bateaux de la Marine Israélienne l'avaient encerclé dans les eaux internationales, alors qu'il naviguait à environ 100 nœuds  marins de la côte de Gaza. Après quoi nous avons perdu contact avec le Marianne. À 5h11 du matin (heure de Gaza) les forces armées israéliennes ont  annoncé qu'elles "avaient visité et fouillé" le Marianne. L’armée s’est emparé du bateau et a détenu toutes les personnes qui s’y trouvaient à bord,  "dans les eaux internationales" comme ils l'ont eux-mêmes admis. Le seul aspect positif dans cette annonce, c’est que  les Israéliens reconnaissent qu'il existe effectivement un blocus naval de Gaza en dépit du récent déni du gouvernement de Netanyahu.

Nous n'avons aucune raison de croire que la capture du Marianne se soit déroulée sans incident. En effet, la dernière fois que l’armée israélienne a fait une telle déclaration, en 2012, certaines personnes à bord de l'Estelle ont reçu des décharges de Taser et ont été battues. En 2010, dix passagers du Mavi Marmara ont été assassinés par les forces armées israéliennes pendant une opération similaire dans les eaux internationales.

Il est déplorable que le gouvernement israélien s'entête à maintenir sa politique absolument improductive de non-tolérance, signifiant par là qu'il continuera d'appliquer un châtiment collectif inhumain et illégal contre les 1.8 millions de Palestiniens de Gaza. Les actes répétés de piraterie d'Israël dans les eaux internationales sont des signes inquiétants de la volonté d'étendre cette politique d'occupation et de blocus à tout l'est de la Méditerranée. Nous demandons que le gouvernement d'Israël mette fin immédiatement à la détention illégale de citoyens pacifiques qui voyagent dans les eaux internationales dans le seul but d'apporter de l'aide humanitaire.

Nous demandons à notre gouvernement de s'assurer que les 18 passagers et l'équipage à bord du Marianne sont en sécurité, dont les deux Canadiens, Bob Lovelace et Kevin Neish. Nous demandons également à tous les partis politiques de protester vigoureusement contre les violations des lois maritimes par l'État d'Israël. Nous demandons à toutes les organisations de la société civile de condamner ces actes d'Israël. Des citoyen-ne-s de bonne volonté, partout à travers le monde vont continuer, comme nous le ferons également, de d’agir contre ces injustices, jusqu'à ce que le port de Gaza soit ouvert et que le siège et l'occupation de la bande de Gaza prennent fin.

Christian Martel, ancien facteur et syndicaliste du Québec, dans la Flottille https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-EyRSkLL_o (Christian et Ehab sont dans un des bateaux qui reviennent actuellement vers la Grèce)
APPEL À L'ACTION : http://www.tahrir.ca/en/content/urgent-take-action-flotilla-gaza (une version en français suivra bientôt)

Solidairement,
Le Bateau canadien pour Gaza
Suivez-nous sur Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CanadaBoatGaza et Twitter: @CanadaBoatGaza
Vous pouvez soutenir nos efforts en diffusant ce message
et les autres ici  http://www.tahrir.ca/
@CanadaBoatGaza


https://www.facebook.com/Yemaya144

Calls for Support of the Marianne Crew, Pirated and Held by Israel

Dear Friends of SJS; Victoria Friends of Cuba calls for your support

by Victoria Friends of Cuba/Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

Friends, late Sunday, June 28 a flotilla of four boats carrying humanitarian aid making their way towards Gaza was illegally stopped when Israeli Naval Forces forced their way onto the leading boat the Marianne of Gothenburg.

 

12 noon Wednesday, July 1

Government & Belleville, Victoria
 
(kitty-corner from the Legislature at the Emily Carr statue)


Various reports state that the Marianne seized by Israeli Forces has been towed to the port of Ashdod while the three remaining boats turned back.

At least two Canadians, Kevin Neish from Victoria, who many of us know and Robert Lovelace from the Ardoch Algonquin Nation of Ontario were among 20 others on the Marianne. There has been no contact with the people that were on board of the Marianne. We do not know what their conditions are or how they
are being treated.

The boats were in international waters, broke no international laws and were on a humanitarian mission. This is another act of aggression and piracy on the part of Israel that has been imposing an illegal, immoral and
genocidal blockade on the people of Gaza. We demand that they are all released at once so they can carry on their humanitarian mission.

We will hold our banners and distribute leaflets informing people of this Israeli inhumane act. We must demand the immediate release and freedom of all flotilla participants and boat so they can continue their delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

We appeal to all of us to contact our Members of Parliament and government officials to demand the freedom of the flotilla from Israeli piracy.

Victoria Friends of Cuba
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

New York State Study Finds Outright Ban Only Protection from Dangerous Fracking Effects

It's Official: New York State Bans Fracking

via Gasland

Friends; today, New York’s fracking ban became official state policy with the release of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Findings Statement. The statement concludes an almost seven year scientific study that determined no regulations, only a ban, could protect New York citizens from the inherent dangers of fracking.

This is a huge victory for public health and grassroots democracy. It’s a victory that should be celebrated across the country, not just in New York, because it would not have been possible without so many of you.

New York has a ban today because families in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wyoming, Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and so many more places spoke up about what fracking was doing to their communities. New York citizens heard your stories and were relentless in their fight to protect their families. Armed with science and grassroots organizing, they took on one of the most powerful industries in the world, and won.

But this ban does not protect New York from dangerous fracking infrastructure projects or our neighbors in PA and friends across the country who are still being fracked.

The only true ban on fracking is to replace the fuel. As long as we’re still using oil and gas, the fossil fuel industry will continue to frack and build pipelines, compressor stations, power plants, gas storage facilities and LNG ports.

That’s why we started The Solutions Grassroots Tour to take renewable energy solutions directly to frontline communities who have been put on the fossil fuel chopping block.

So today, we are asking you to commemorate this incredible grassroots victory and stop powering your home with fracked gas and other fossil fuels.

All you need is your electric bill and a few minutes to sign up for 100% renewable energy from Ethical Electric using this simple form.

All that changes is that instead of buying fossil fuel energy coming from dirty coal or fracked gas, all the electricity your home pulls from the power grid will be replenished with 100% renewable energy. You’ll keep the same utility and get the same bill.

We must put our money where our mouth is, and stopping funding the companies that want to frack our country.

As we saw with the release of a recent EPA report that buried damning evidence that confirmed fracking contaminates groundwater under a misleading headline, our government is highly influenced by the fossil fuel industry.

We must continue to organize and demand our government represent people, not corporations, but we cannot wait on our government to act.

We must do all we can to stop the mad dash to frack. Do your part and boycott fossil fuels on your energy bill today.

 


Lee Ziesche, Grassroots Coordinator

P.S. Help us to continue to educate folks on the dangers of fracking by donating today.
https://solutionsgrassroots.nationbuilder.com/gasland_donation

Monday, June 29, 2015

Putin's Pipeline End-Run Catches US Off Guard

Putin Gobsmacks Uncle Sam … Again

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch


Here’s the scoop: Two days before the swaggering Sec-Def touched down in Germany, Gazprom announced that it was putting the finishing touches on a massive deal that would double the amount of Russian gas flowing to Germany via a second Nord Stream pipeline.

The shocking announcement made it look like the clueless Ash Carter had no idea what was going on and that his efforts to isolate Russia were a complete flop. And, make no mistake; the deal is huge, big enough to change the geopolitical calculus of the entire region. Robert Morley explains what’s going on in a recent article at The Trumpet:

“Once this pipeline is finished, almost all of Eastern Europe can be completely cut out of the gas picture. There will be no need for any gas to transit through Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Belarus, Hungary or Slovakia.” (Gazprom’s Dangerous New Nord Stream Gas Pipeline to Germany, The Trumpet)

Yep, Ukraine is out and Germany’s in, which means that Washington’s plan to extend US hegemony by driving a wedge between Russia and Europe is down the plughole.

Judo expert Putin has done it again; he waited until the eleventh hour to pull the rug out from under the blustery Carter, and now he’s sitting back enjoying the show. Is it any wonder why Carter’s been running around Europe with his hair on fire? Here’s more from the same article:

“Think of the huge leverage this will give Russia…..Germany may not have much in the way of natural resources of its own, but with Russia’s help, it is becoming an energy hub of Europe! Increasing quantities of Russian gas are flowing through Germany before being distributed to countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Britain. In this way Germany leverages the power of Russia. Western Europe also is becoming dependent on Germany for gas supplies too…

Don’t let the current conflict in Ukraine cloud what is happening. Germany and Russia have a history of secret cooperation—even when headline conflict appears to indicate otherwise. That Germany and Russia would push through such a deal when the West is supposedly sanctioning Russia for its actions in Ukraine speaks volumes.” (“Gazprom’s Dangerous New Nord Stream Gas Pipeline to Germany”, The Trumpet)

Talk about sour grapes! The author would like you believe that US motives in Europe are pure as the driven snow, but are they? Is Washington really afraid of Russian aggression or are they trying desperately to keep the unipolar model intact by separating Germany and Russia? Isn’t that what the sanctions are all about? STRATFOR CEO George Friedman summed up it up perfectly in a recent speech he gave at The Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs. He said:

“The primordial interest of the United States, over which for centuries we have fought wars–the First, the Second and Cold Wars–has been the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united there, they’re the only force that could threaten us. And to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”

Bingo. This is Washington’s strategy in a nutshell, preventing German industry from linking up with Russia’s vast natural resources. That’s the lethal combo that will lead to an integrated Eurasian free trade zone that will dwarf US GDP and put an end to the empire. So don’t believe the baloney about “Russian aggression”. What Washington really cares about is an economic rival that could leave it in the dust. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen when Germany becomes Moscow’s biggest gas station.

Naturally, the Gazprom news left Carter in a bit of a crabby mood, which may explain why he’s been dragging himself from one Capital to the next issuing terse warnings to Putin while promising NATO more weapons, more troops, more joint-maneuvers, and more missiles. And for what? To stop the Cossacks from sweeping across the Steppe and into Baltics? Be serious. Putin’s not going to invade Europe. He wants their business, that’s all. Like we’ve been saying from the beginning; Putin just wants to makes some dough. He wants to pull his economy out of recession, and, yes, beef up Gazprom’s profits. Is there a problem with that?

Nope. In fact, that’s the way the US used to do things, y’know, before they decided it was easier to just blow up stuff and steal whatever they could.

But all this whining about Putin is ridiculous, don’t you think? So he sells gas to Europe. So what? Get over it. No one likes a whiner.

The US did everything in its power to sabotage South Stream, and they succeeded too. Score one for Team USA. But did they really think it would end there? Did they really think that that Putin would just fold his tent and go home for a good cry? Did they really think he was going to walk away from his biggest trading partner and move on to China?

Of course not. Any fool could have seen this coming, so why was the Pentagon caught flatfooted? Don’t they have anyone on the payroll who can figure out stuff like this or are they too busy with their damn wargames? And why is Carter talking about tanks and missiles systems when US trade reps should be looking for ways to cut a deal? Isn’t that the way capitalism is supposed to work or has the US degenerated to the point where it has to incinerate anyone it can’t compete with? It’s pathetic! Here’s a clip from Carter in Europe:

“One of [Putin's] stated views is a longing for the past and that’s where we have a different perspective on the world and even on Russia’s future, Carter said.
“We’d like to see us all moving forward, Europe moving forward, and that does not seem to be his stated perspective.”

C’mon, Carter. Can’t you just man-up and admit the US can’t compete anymore so you’ve decided to start a war instead. Is that so hard to say?

Of course Carter has made every effort to sweep the Gazprom story under the rug and pretend that nothing has happened, but anyone who follows these things can figure it out. The fact is, he got his clock-cleaned by Putin, and not just once either. There was another bombshell on Wednesday that just added a little icing to the cake. Check this out from Oil Price.com:

“Russia’s state-run gas company Gazprom says it has taken a step toward building the Turkish Stream pipeline by securing permission from Ankara to begin surveying waters of the Black Sea for the offshore leg of the project… Alexander Novak, Russia’s energy minister, says he expects Ankara and Moscow will sign an agreement to build Turkish Stream by the end of June.” (Controversial Gazprom Pipeline Clears Hurdle, Oil Price)

That’s what you call the double whammy! Now Putin’s going to be pumping gas into Europe from both directions leaving Uncle Sam out in the cold. Can you feel those Russian pincers starting to tighten around Europe? Now you can understand why Carter’s been running around Europe with his knickers in a twist; it’s because his glorious divide and conquer strategy just exploded in his face. His only option now is to scrap Plan A altogether and go back to drawing board. What a freaking disaster.

There’s another story that broke during Carter’s euro-junket that’s also worth mentioning. This is from Bloomberg:

“Ukraine will miss a bond coupon payment in July, setting off a default on about $19 billion of debt, as a standoff with creditors shows no sign of abating, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc…

Ukraine is giving creditors a few weeks to accept a proposal that includes a 40 percent writedown to principal before it imposes a debt moratorium, a person familiar with the talks said on June 19.

“Ukraine will not make the July 24 coupon payment and, as a result, will enter into default at that point,” Matheny said of his base-case scenario in the report. “We do not expect the ad hoc committee to accept Ukraine’s latest restructuring proposal.” (Goldman Sees Ukraine Default in July as Debt Standoff Holds, Bloomberg)

Ukraine is busted, are you kidding me? The country that was so critical to US plans for luring Putin into a Vietnam-type quagmire, is headed for bankruptcy? So all that work was for nothing–toppling the government, arming the Nazis, fomenting a civil war, incinerating buildings full of civilians in Odessa, shooting down commercial airliners, and plunging the state into Somalia-like chaotic abyss? It was all just a big miscalculation, a boo-boo; is that it?

Can you see why the United States can’t be trusted as “the guarantor of global security”? Washington destroys everything it touches with its wrecking ball foreign policy; Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria. Now it’s destroyed Ukraine. Who’ll be next?

Putin has done us all a favor by throwing a wrench in Washington’s plans and helping to bring the era of imperial overreach to a swift and merciful end. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

Way to go, Vladimir.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Good People Trying to do Good Things

From Zurich

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - Popular Resistance

Humanitarian ships trying to peacefully break the illegal and immoral siege on Gaza were intercepted by the Israeli navy. But good people will keep trying to do good things against all odds. See this video for example about a Gaza initiative with colors https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CX34C2B1nt8

So far my trip to Europe is going great. And from what I hear from the volunteers and workers at the museum back in Bethlehem, there are also great news. The whirlwind tour of Europe began in Munich and  goes through Leipzig, Berlin, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Zurich, Dornbrin, Bratislava, Vienna. Nine cites in in 12 days meant lots of trains and other modes of transportation.

Main two purposes are: signing my book on Sharing the Land of Canaan (out in German now) and seeking collaborations and partnerships for our nascent museum of Natural History. this gives one time to read and reflect. I certainly gathered many books and other literature along the way. I also reflected how two German people I never met actually influenced my life.

One is Mr. Schneller who founded an orphanage school in Jerusalem that saved my grandfather (who lost all his immediate family members in World War I). The other is Rev. Schmitz who collected many animals in Palestine and also founded a girls’ school in Jerusalem. I was a teacher at that school in 1978-1979. That collection was taken over by Israeli institutions.

As in previous visit, we got encouraged by the site of remnants of the Berlin wall. If that wall can fall, then certainly our apartheid wall will fall. We engaged in amazing conversations with varied people covering areas
ranging from nature conservation, research on biodiversity, early childhood education, German-Israel relations, apartheid, Nazi-Zionist collaboration, and much more.

Everywhere I go people are so welcoming and so interested in helping Palestine and Helping PMNH-BU. Although so far I have been running around without enough sleep, I feel more energy than ever before. Examples of collaboration include sending some of our young people to learn things like taxidermy, museum exhibition design, and modeling nature and artifacts for exhibition. We also need to send some for acquiring higher degrees and to return trained in various disciplines (paleontology, arachnology, entomology, ethnology etc.).  

I am always impressed by how much people do with very limited resources. Many live simpler lives so that they are not distracted and they can focus on good work. Others have resources and realize that giving is very enjoyable activity.

The national group of German Palestinian Association (Deutsch-Palaestinensischen Gesellschaft dpg-netz.de) is well organized in many German cities and has a beautiful and highly informative magazine.I could go on and on.

More and more, we realize our priority/challenge is how best to invest in the young people (especially those who volunteer). This even as we keep the energy of us older folks. In Europe I met many people of all ages engaged in BDS and other actions for peace. Kudos to the,. But we also have so many  good young people with great potential. I am sure they/we together can make miracles.

As the great Mahatma Gandhi once said “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”

This got me to thinking more about the mission of the museum which includes reshaping ourselves  (developing respect for ourselves first) which brings me to another point Gandhi made: “Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves” and similarly “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” 

But the key question remains in what direction should we push ourselves and how do we proceed to change
ourselves.

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH)
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS)
Bethlehem University
Sustainability, Youth Education and Empowerment
http://www.palestinenature.org
info@palestinenature.org
Tel 970-22773553

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Confessions of a Waroholic: America's Always War on Everything

America’s Got War: Poverty, Drugs, Afghanistan, Iraq, Terror, or How to Make War on Everything

by William J. Astore  - TomDispatch


http://www.google.ca/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAYQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fgeektyrant.com%2Fnews%2F2012%2F3%2F1%2Fjason-meets-the-statue-of-liberty-in-empire-by-tim-doyle.html&ei=x5OQVea1A8ikoQTD1rLwBg&bvm=bv.96783405,d.cGU&psig=AFQjCNFdja5K4OJrUKTNaGzskFrpy_AmdQ&ust=1435624698974044War on drugs. War on poverty. War in Afghanistan. War in Iraq. War on terror. The biggest mistake in American policy, foreign and domestic, is looking at everything as war. When a war mentality takes over, it chooses the weapons and tactics for you. It limits the terms of debate before you even begin. It answers questions before they’re even asked.

When you define something as war, it dictates the use of the military (or militarized police forces, prisons, and other forms of coercion) as the primary instruments of policy.

Violence becomes the means of decision, total victory the goal. Anyone who suggests otherwise is labeled a dreamer, an appeaser, or even a traitor.

War, in short, is the great simplifier -- and it may even work when you’re fighting existential military threats (as in World War II). But it doesn’t work when you define every problem as an existential one and then make war on complex societal problems (crime, poverty, drugs) or ideas and religious beliefs (radical Islam).
Tomgram: William Astore, "Hi, I'm Uncle Sam and I'm a War-oholic"

It was the summer of 2002. The Bush administration's top officials knew that they were going into Iraq in a big way. They were then in planning mode, but waiting until fall to launch their full-throttle campaign to persuade Congress and the American people to back them. As White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who oversaw the selling of the invasion, put it at the time, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

For them, it was a complete no-brainer. The U.S. military against Saddam Hussein’s rickety army? It would be, as a neocon supporter put it, a "cakewalk." In fact, they were already thinking about where to turn next. As the insider quip of the pre-invasion months had it, "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran." One key figure, however, had his doubts. According to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, Secretary of State Colin Powell offered this warning to the president: "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all." Woodward noted as well that “privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.”

In fact, Pottery Barn had no such rule, but what might be thought of as the Powell rule turned out to be on the mark in ways even he couldn't have imagined. Once things began to go desperately wrong, there was, of course, no way to roll back the invasion and "ownership" of Iraq would prove to be inheritable. The next president, who came to power in part by opposing the war and swore that, once in the Oval Office, he’d end it and get the U.S. military out for good, is now the less-than-proud owner of Iraq War 3.0. And if ever there was a nation that was broken, it’s Iraq.

In the end, the Powell rule turned out to apply to every country the U.S. military touched in those years, including Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. In each instance, hopes in Washington ran soaringly high. In each instance, the country was broken. In each instance, the U.S. ended up “owning” it in some increasingly horrific way. Worst of all, in no instance could Washington bring itself to stop fighting in one fashion or another, whether with Special Forces, drones, or in the case of Iraq all of the above and thousands of new trainers dispatched to stand up a broken army created by the Bush administration and into which Washington had sunk $25 billion. Failure across the board would be the story of Washington’s twenty-first century in the Greater Middle East and northern Africa, and yet somehow the only lesson that seemed to be learned was that, militarily, more -- never less -- had to be done.

Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore suggests that, were the U.S. an individual, we would immediately recognize what such behavior was -- addiction -- and act accordingly. Tom 

America’s Got War: Poverty, Drugs, Afghanistan, Iraq, Terror, or How to Make War on Everything

by William J. Astore

 

America’s Omnipresent War Ethos


Consider the Afghan War -- not the one in the 1980s when Washington funneled money and arms to the fundamentalist Mujahideen to inflict on the Soviet Union a Vietnam-style quagmire, but the more recent phase that began soon after 9/11. Keep in mind that what launched it were those attacks by 19 hijackers (15 of whom were Saudi nationals) representing a modest-sized organization lacking the slightest resemblance to a nation, state, or government. There was as well, of course, the fundamentalist Taliban movement that then controlled much of Afghanistan. It had emerged from the rubble of our previous war there and had provided support and sanctuary, though somewhat grudgingly, to Osama bin Laden.

With images of those collapsing towers in New York burned into America’s collective consciousness, the idea that the U.S. might respond with an international “policing” action aimed at taking criminals off the global streets was instantly banished from discussion. What arose in the minds of the Bush administration’s top officials instead was vengeance via a full-scale, global, and generational “war on terror.” Its thoroughly militarized goal was not just to eliminate al-Qaeda but any terror outfits anywhere on Earth, even as the U.S. embarked on a full-fledged experiment in violent nation building in Afghanistan. More than 13 dismal years later, that Afghan War-cum-experiment is ongoing at staggering expense and with the most disappointing of results.

While the mindset of global war was gaining traction, the Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq. The most technologically advanced military on Earth, one that the president termed “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known,” was set loose to bring “democracy” and a Pax Americana to the Middle East. Washington had, of course, been in conflict with Iraq since Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1991, but what began as the equivalent of a military coup (aka a “decapitation” operation) by an outside power, an attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein and eliminate his armed forces and party, soon morphed into a prolonged occupation and another political and social experiment in violent nation-building. As with Afghanistan, the Iraq experiment with war is still ongoing at enormous expense and with even more disastrous results.

Radical Islam has drawn strength from these American-led “wars.” Indeed, radical Islamists cite the intrusive and apparently permanent presence of American troops and bases in the Middle East and Central Asia as confirmation of their belief that U.S. forces are leading a crusade against them -- and by extension against Islam itself. (And in a revealing slip of the tongue, President Bush did indeed once call his war on terror a “crusade.”) Considered in these terms, such a war is by definition a losing effort because each “success” only strengthens the narrative of Washington’s enemies. There’s simply no way to win such a war except by stopping it. Yet that course of action is never on the proverbial “table” of options from which officials in Washington are said to choose their strategies. To do so, in the context of war thinking, would mean to admit defeat (even though true defeat arrived the very instant the problem was first defined as war).

Our leaders persist in such violent folly at least in part because they fear the admission of defeat above all else. After all, nothing is more pejorative in American politics or culture than to be labeled a loser in war, someone who “cuts and runs.”

In the 1960s, despite his own serious misgivings about the ongoing conflict in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson set the gold standard in his determination not to be the first American president to lose a war, especially in a “damn little pissant country” like Vietnam. So he persisted -- and the conflict turned him into a loser anyway and destroyed his presidency.

Even as he waged war, as historian George Herring has noted, LBJ did not want to be known as a “war president.” Two generations later, another Texan, George W. Bush, grasped the “war president” moniker with genuine enthusiasm. He, too, vowed he would win his war when things started to go sour. Staring down a growing insurgency in Iraq in the summer of 2003, Bush did not shy from the challenge. “Bring ‘em on,” he said in what was supposed to be a Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry-style moment. Now, Washington is sending troops back into Iraq for the third time to engage an even more intractable insurgency, the Islamic State's radical version of Islam, a movement originally fed and bred partly in Camp Bucca, an American military prison in Iraq.

And just to set the record straight, President Obama, too, accepted the preeminence of war in American policy in his 2009 Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo. There, he offered a stirring defense of America’s role and record as “the world’s sole military superpower”:

“Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.”

It was a moment that defined the Obama presidency as being remarkably in tune with America’s already omnipresent war ethos. It was the very negation of “hope” and “change” and the beginning of Obama’s transition, via the CIA’s drone assassination program, into the role of assassin-in-chief.

Everything Is Jihad


Recent American leaders have something in common with their extremist Islamic counterparts: all of them define everything, implicitly or explicitly, as a jihad, a crusade, a holy war. But the violent methods used in pursuit of various jihads, whether Islamic or secular, simply serve to perpetuate and often aggravate the struggle.

Think of America’s numerous so-called wars and consider if there’s been any measurable progress made in any of them. Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in 1964. Fifty-one years later, there are still startling numbers of desperately poor people and, in this century, the gap between the poorest many and richest few has widened to a chasm. (Since the days of President Ronald Reagan, in fact, one might speak of a war on the poor, not poverty.) Drugs? Forty-four years after President Richard Nixon proclaimed the war on drugs, there are still millions in jail, billions being spent, and drugs galore on the streets of American cities. Terror? Thirteen years and counting after that “war” was launched, terror groups, minor in numbers and reach in 2001, have proliferated wildly and there is now something like a “caliphate” -- once an Osama bin Laden fantasy -- in the Middle East: ISIS in power in parts of Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda on the rise in Yemen, Libya destabilized and divvied up among ever more extreme outfits, innocents still dying in U.S. drone strikes. Afghanistan? The opium trade has rebounded big time, the Taliban is resurgent, and the region is being destabilized. Iraq? A cauldron of ethnic and religious rivalries and hatreds, with more U.S. weaponry on the way to fuel the killing, in a country that functionally no longer exists. The only certainty in most of these American “wars” is their violent continuation, even when their original missions lie in tatters.

The very methods the U.S. employs and the mentality its leaders adopt ensure their perpetuation. Why? Because drug addiction and abuse can’t be conquered by waging a war. Neither can poverty. Neither can terror. Neither can radical Islam be defeated through armed nation building. Indeed, radical Islam thrives on the very war conditions that Washington helps to create. By fighting in the now familiar fashion, you merely fan its flames and ensure its propagation.

It’s the mindset that matters. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan, places that for most Americans exist only within a "war" matrix, the U.S. invades or attacks, gets stuck, throws resources at the problem indiscriminately, and "makes a desert and calls it 'peace'" (to quote the Roman historian Tacitus). After which our leaders act surprised as hell when the problem only grows.

Sadly, the song remains monotonously the same in America: more wars, made worse by impatience for results driven by each new election cycle. It’s a formula in which the country is eternally fated to lose.

Two Curious Features of America’s New Wars


Historically, when a nation declares war, it does so to mobilize national will, as the U.S. clearly did in World War II. Accompanying our wars of recent decades, however, has been an urge not to mobilize the people, but demobilize them -- even as the "experts" are empowered to fight and taxpayer funds pour into the national security state and the military-industrial complex to keep the conflicts going.

Recent wars, whether on drugs or in the Greater Middle East, are never presented as a challenge we the people can address and solve together, but as something only those who allegedly possess the expertise and credentials -- and the weapons -- can figure out or fight. George W. Bush summed up this mindset in classic fashion after 9/11 when he urged Americans to go shopping and visit Disney World and leave the fighting to the pros. War, in short, has become yet another form of social control. Have a gun or a badge of some sort and you can speak forcefully and be listened to; otherwise, you have no say.

In addition, what makes America’s new wars unique to our moment is that they never have a discernible endpoint. For what constitutes “victory” over drugs or terror? Once started, these wars by definition are hard to stop.

Cynics may claim there’s nothing new here. Hasn’t America always been at war? Haven’t we always been a violent people? There’s truth in this. But at least Americans of my grandfather’s and father’s generation didn’t define themselves by war.

What America needs right now is a 12-step program to break the urge to feed further our national addiction to war. The starting point for Washington -- and Americans more generally -- would obviously have to be taking that first step and confessing that we have a problem we alone can’t solve. "Hi, I’m Uncle Sam and I’m a war-oholic. Yes, I’m addicted to war. I know it’s destructive to myself and others. But I can’t stop -- not without your help."

True change often begins with confession. With humility. With an admission that not everything is within one’s control, no matter how violently one rages; indeed, that violent rage only aggravates the problem. America needs to make such a confession. Only then can we begin to wean ourselves off war.

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a TomDispatch regular. He edits the blog The Contrary Perspective.

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Copyright 2015 William J. Astore